Dribbling Towards Success with a Never Give Up Attitude
Delegation and employee appreciation are must-have skills for entrepreneurs.
Jordan Meinster is the president and founder of PickUp USA Fitness, a basketball-focused fitness franchise. Jordan is committed to the success of his franchisees and, through his perseverance and reliance on his team, has created a business that is thriving even in the midst of COVID-19.
“If you don’t micromanage your team and you let them be, they’re going to thrive.”
PickUp USA Fitness
- Find the right people on your team, give them training on the company, and let them do their thing.
- Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business.
- Recognize and appreciate everyone who helped you achieve your goals.
Jordan Meinster is the president and founder of PickUp USA Fitness, a basketball-focused fitness franchise operating in the United States. Before PickUp USA Fitness, Jordan spent over six years in the banking industry as a business banker and branch relationship banker for Citibank and HSBC. Jordan holds an MBA from the University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business and a BA in Business Economics from Forth Lewis College.
“The tough times are just moments in time and the good times will come. Eventually.”
PickUp USA Fitness
Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.
Today’s podcast is dedicated to Working Dogs for Warriors. This organization is dedicated to helping our nation’s warriors who may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or any other service related injury by training and donating a service dog to them. Learn more about Working Dogs for Warriors at https://www.workingdogsforwarriors.com/.
Michael Kurland (00:01):
Welcome to another episode of the #BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael, Kurland. I’m super excited today. We have Jordan Meinster, president and founder of Pick-up USA Fitness. Jordan, welcome to the show. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit more about yourself and your company?
Jordan Meinster (00:19):
Thanks Michael. Glad to be here. My name is Jordan Meinster and as Michael said, I’m the president and founder of Pickup USA Fitness. Pickup USA Fitness is about a 10 year old company at this point. Opened our first location in 2012 just outside of LA in Irwindale, California. Now we’ve got locations across the country. In short PickUpUSA is a fitness club. So we’ve got your traditional fitness amenities that you’re going to see it at other gyms – weights, cardio equipment, things of that nature. But our specialty is basketball. So when you walk into any of our clubs, you’re going to see most of the footprint is basketball courts and that’s where we specialize our services. We do group basketball, training, private basketball training. People can rent our courts out. Our bread and butter service is pickup basketball with referees. That was our original service offering all those years ago and that’s really what put us on the map and still why people primarily come to PickUpUSA. So a pickup basketball, super popular pastime for people, 30 million people across the country play it and we just provide a little more organization to it and add refs to it and people have fun.
Michael Kurland (01:30):
That’s awesome. It’s really one of the main reasons why we wanted to get you on the show. You’re doing it better in the fitness industry. I can tell you from my pickup basketball days it’s not really fun when you have to call your own fouls and you get that one guy that’s playing five on five and every time you drive the lane, it’s a foul. So it’s good that there’s a third-party rep there that’s neutral. It’s good thing to have a third-party referee, that’s got a neutral part. That’s not interested in the game. We like that. Let’s jump right in Jordan and get to it. What do you do and why do you do it? You just talked about it, but what got you into pick-up basketball and starting these fitness clubs around the country and trying to do it a little bit differently, a little bit better?
Jordan Meinster (02:32):
Exactly what you just said was my experience. People often ask about my basketball background and pedigree and they think I’m like an ex pro player or something like that, but I’ve just been a guy, my whole life, high school, college, graduate school, just playing pickup ball in parks and 24 hour fitness, and community centers and experiencing the same thing that you just talked about – everyone’s calling their own fouls. Nobody knows the score of the game and that’s if you can even get involved in a game. You show up at a gym, it’s intimidating for people and it’s tough to play sometimes. PickUp USA was the spark of the idea when I was in college, 19 years old, I first thought of it. I said, if I ever had a gym, it would be on the basketball courts, have somebody organizing the games.
Jordan Meinster (03:24):
You don’t have to wonder how you’re going to get involved. Then I’d have two refs on the court. That was the spark of the idea and then that always just stuck with me. As I moved from Maryland to Colorado, to San Diego, to LA and just playing pickup basketball, it was the same experience, no matter where you went. So eventually at 28 years old, I’d spent six years or so in banking and finance and I said, you know what? This is too good of an idea, not to at least try it. So in 2011 quit my job at Citibank, went out, raised a little bit of money, maxed out some credit cards, found a warehouse in Irwindale, California, laid down a basketball court and just got to work. So that was the inspiration. Truly just my experience with it and realizing that people across the country are having the same experience. So, I just went for it and here we are today.
Michael Kurland (04:18):
Always the great stories of entrepreneurs. I love it. Similar story with selling my home to get the finances, to start Branded Group. But I love that you did something, but you didn’t love it, and you left to pursue your passion. I can definitely tell you as a former high school basketball player, I drive by the basketball court, down the street from my house every day. There’s always pickup games. To your point, I’m so rusty. I don’t want to get on the court. I don’t want to play with these guys. I’m intimidated. I’m not going to get in the game. I think what you’re talking about is great. I think what you’ve done is great actually. Let’s jump into the next question. What are you curious about right now? What’s got you going in this crazy time that we’re living in?
Jordan Meinster (05:07):
It is a crazy time and wondering what’s next, right? In January a year ago, we didn’t even know what COVID was. January, February PickUp USA was having our best months ever. March 1st, I was in Austin at a trade show pitching the PickUp USA idea to prospective franchisees at a packed convention center. Afterwards food trucks and everything and life was normal. Two weeks later, the NBA is shut down and schools are shutting down and they shut down gyms. A torpedo hit our entire industry and the whole country and the whole world. At that moment it was really what’s next? We started to model out what’s it going to look like when our gyms reopen and we prepped for the worst.
Jordan Meinster (06:01):
We anticipated potentially 50% loss in our membership base and our gyms having to absorb losses for months and months and months. Then we reopened primarily across the country in May, in June and the customers came back. That was really encouraging for us. But we’ve certainly had headwinds with this. Now we’re still shut down. Our California gyms are shut down still. The question is what does this look like? Is there this giant celebration a couple months from now because COVID is over and we go back to where we were or is it a little bit of peaks and valleys and we have to ride this out for the next the next 12 months. So obviously we’re in an industry that’s been particularly hit hard. Alot of gyms haven’t made it. We’ve been fortunate that basketball is still popular and we’ve got a very unique product, but certainly headwinds out there and that’s the curiosity, I would say. What’s next with the pandemic and our industry and the economy in general?
Michael Kurland (07:11):
I’m listening to what you’re saying, and there’s so many similarities between where you’re at and where we’re at Branded Group. We did the same thing. I was at a trade show in February. People were shaking hands and were like, Oh, this thing’s not going to get here. It’s going to be fine. A month later, I’m sending people home. I was telling them we’re working from home. We haven’t been back in the office since March, April, I think it was the 13th. We’re almost at the end of 2020 now and I really do hope that we can get back to some sort of normalcy, but I think only time will tell. But to your point with the ebbs and flows of especially the fitness industry, I’m happy to hear you guys are doing pretty good. So are you open anywhere in the country or is it down primarily across the country?
Jordan Meinster (08:00):
All of our gyms are open minus California. For the most part, other states have let the businesses figure it out, which, I’m a believer in that. Let the markets figure it out. Certainly public health has to be a priority. So it’s been interesting to watch the different states and how they’ve handled it. You’ve got Florida and Texas that are all right, let the businesses be and they’ll figure it out. Then you’ve got States like California, Michigan. We’ve closed in all of these states and they’re much more okay, shut it down or severely limited. It’s been tough, it’s been tough, but we’ve always been a clean gym, so that’s helped us.
Jordan Meinster (08:43):
Our gyms are very spacious. Most gyms these days, especially boutique gyms are two, 3000 square feet, which doesn’t provide a lot of a footprint for individuals. Our gyms are 15 to 25,000 square feet with pretty much the same amount of people in there. It’s not like a yoga studio or Pilates studio where people are right next to each other. Our gyms have space. Now obviously when you’re playing basketball, people are close to each other, but we’ve got the mask mandate as a company. Most of the states we’re in have a mask mandate. So people are wearing masks and playing basketball. There’s been a lot of studies out in the fitness industry that show that fitness clubs really aren’t a place where COVID is being transmitted, with the ventilation and bay doors open and things like that. So fortunately, our clubs have stayed clean. We haven’t had any type of outbreaks reported and we’ve managed it pretty well, but to answer the question, most of the gyms are open and the ones that aren’t, we’re hoping come back online within the next couple of months.
Michael Kurland (09:45):
So the ones that are open, how’s the turnout? Are people getting out there and being happy to be out doing something normal and playing some hoops?
Jordan Meinster (09:56):
We were amazed. I think our first gyms that came back online, were in mid-May in Texas and like I said, we really modeled it out where we just expected our typical gym, just a round number, about a thousand members. So we really anticipated that. We’d probably lose half of them and it just didn’t happen. I remember the first day I came back online. We’ve got our scoreboard in terms of signups that are going on in signups, just started tick, tick, tick, and it was gone. I was like, Oh my God, we’re back. We had clubs where we had our best month ever in June and then July beat June. It’s pretty much been consistent setting records since then. I think there’s a supply and demand function going on as well. I think total demand for basketball and fitness clubs is down. But there’s also a supply side to that, especially in basketball, because even some of the gyms that have opened, your Lifetime Fitnesses and 24 hour Fitnesses, their basketball courts are still closed because that’s not really a priority for them. So in a lot of the markets we operate in, we’re the only show in town. So fortunately we’ve done well and our franchisees are doing well as well.
Michael Kurland (11:11):
That’s great. I think to your point the boutique gyms are probably thriving right now, if they’re able to be open because I was a member of 24 going into the pandemic and I’d go there to bust a workout out real quick, ride the bike, or lift a few weights, but I really didn’t enjoy going to 24. It was what I had always done was gone to some big box gym and done my little routine. I joined this little boutique, high intensity gym a couple months before that as well. So I was doing a double dip and I’ve just been going there and they’re open air. We’re outside, we’re in California, and we’re outside. We’re in the garage with the bay door open and it’s been great.
Michael Kurland (11:57):
There’s some people that haven’t come back, but for the most part, I’d say like 75% of the people have come back and we’re still getting our workouts in. I actually enjoy it more with the outdoor fresh air than I did when we were in indoors and the smaller square footage. So I think to your point, the boutiques are the ones that are going to look well at the end of this and the big box guys, the ‘globo’ gyms, if you get that reference are going to go by the wayside.
Jordan Meinster (12:24):
They say that recessions tend to escalate trends and what you’re speaking to, that’s been a trend for a long time in terms of your typical big box gym. Their growth has pretty much plateaued. They were growing at 5% or so per year. The boutique side of the industry, that’s, what’s been exploding. Now you get a recession that escalates that, or sorry, accelerates that trend and here we are. I think what you’re speaking to is really where the demand is in this industry. People want a specific experience, a boutique type experience, and that’s what we provide on the basketball side of it.
Michael Kurland (13:05):
That’s awesome. It’s such a simple concept, but you’ve taken it and you’ve made it amazing. You’ve got, like you said, a thousand per gym, and you had an event in February with franchisees ready to sign up and I see nothing but good things in your future. So that’s great to hear. Let’s go to the next question. This is the BeBetter podcast, right? So how are you being better to yourself currently? What are you doing?
Jordan Meinster (13:38):
Good question. I also wanted to mention earlier that our slogan at PickUp USA is “a better way to play.” So PickUp USA, a better way to play. As you were saying, BeBetter. It’s very synonymous with what we do and that’s on the business side. That’s what we deliver – a better way to play basketball. That’s what we live by. That’s our mission statement and what drives us. In terms of me personally, I legitimately try and be better every day. I think people, when they look at their best times and that’s in past tense, I used to be able to do this. I used to be able to do that. I always look at them like, “Oh, that’s, that’s kind of a sad story.”
Jordan Meinster (14:21):
I always want to be getting better and better and better every day. On the professional side, I think my professional development this year has been a lot on delegation. I think I’m wired to somewhat be a micromanager and a doer. So if something’s broken, if an evaporative cooler is broken at a gym that I operate, I can go on the roof and try and fix it myself. I had no idea what I’m doing. That’s always been my mantra, but I’ve realized, especially this past year, that’s not an efficient way for me to do things and the scale of things. For me, it’s been about finding the right people on my team and giving them training on the company and just letting them do their thing, not getting involved, not micromanaging it. The same with our franchise owners. We’re going to provide them a ton of training right off the bat. It’s intense at first, but once they complete their training, they know the brand. You go out and operate your business. I think in terms of being better for myself, that’s been huge for me this year, delegating to individuals, letting them do their thing and getting out of the way.
Michael Kurland (15:38):
I totally agree. I read this book called the E-Myth Revisited. Have you ever read that? It basically talks about what you’re talking about, which is, when you started your company, you were wearing all hats, right? I’m going to assume you were doing accounting sales, probably reffing some games. Doing the sign-up sheet, right. Your time was just spread so thin, but you knew how to run your business best because you were the one that got it off the ground. But as you start getting deeper and deeper into your business, you don’t have the time and your time is not well spent for you to be out there reffing or for you to be on the roof changing the condenser coil. It focuses on hiring and delegating, like you said, finding experts in their field to be your accountant, to be your lawyer, to be your HVAC technician, which is what we do.
Michael Kurland (16:39):
Hire the right referees so that you can focus on what it is that you are great at whatever that may be at your business, like selling it to the franchisees or having your vision and running it from the top down. I highly recommended if you have a chance to, if you like to read and you have a chance to pick up a book, the E-Myth revisited. It’s kind of old, it’s probably from the nineties or something, but it’s still pertinent in what we’re talking about.
Jordan Meinster (17:03):
That’s pretty cool. That concept is spot on for sure. I know that it’s helped me. Like you said, in the beginning I was doing everything and I’ve heard of statement, 80% is good enough. I believe that I can clean the basketball courts better than anyone and certain tasks like that. That was years ago and I gave that up, but it’s like you know what, maybe somebody can clean it 80% as good as me and their act could be on their hands and knees for two hours scrubbing it, but that’s good enough to start scaling the business. So that’s certainly been a big part of my continuing professional development.
Michael Kurland (17:41):
Scalability. You have to be able to be at 30,000 feet when you’re the president or the CEO and watch and make sure things are operating the way you need it to operate so that you can keep growing. But it’s a hard lesson to learn. Letting go is not easy because that’s your ego and your drive is what got you there. At least that’s what got me there, right? I’m like, I can do this better than everybody and then, well, maybe I can’t do operations better than people. So maybe I was the 80% and they were the a hundred percent.
Jordan Meinster (18:13):
I think understanding too that there’s a learning curve for people. I think when you first let go, the individual’s going to make mistakes and they’re going to go through their own learning curve. So that’s been something for me as well. We’re bringing on a new sales associate and for me, it used to be I’m going to have to take them through six months of training before they even hit the phones. But now I realize, you know what? Give them training obviously, but then let them hit the phones. They’re going to figure out their own systems. If you don’t micromanage them and you let them be, they’re going to thrive. So for me, that’s been a big part of it too, baking in the fact that when you bring in a new person, there’s going to be some screw ups, but they’ll get it and they’re going to figure out their own systems that might not work for me, but my systems might not work for them. Let them be entrepreneurs. We let our staff pick their schedule. We don’t track PTO. So it’s like, look, do your job, produce. That’s been really productive for us.
Michael Kurland (19:19):
I totally agree. I have very similar stories with my sales team. That’s where I ended up after I finished reading the E-Myth and decided to let everyone else do everything else. I focused on sales and same thing. I grew up learning like you got to pound the phones, a hundred calls a day. Get everyone on the phone, leaving voicemail, send them a follow up email. It worked for me 10 years ago. Then I hired a bunch of millennials on my staff and they were like we don’t make phone calls. I’m like, you have to make phone calls. You have to make phone calls. They showed me, you don’t have to make phone calls. They started just reaching out to people on LinkedIn and closing more deals than I was closing. I also really appreciate what you said about letting them pick their own schedule and not micromanaging.
Michael Kurland (20:05):
I operate in the same facets. My one rule is just get your work done, get the job done, and close deals if you’re working for me in sales. If you do that, I don’t care. Put your time in because it’s going to show if you’re not closing deals and you’re not making things happen. It’s going to show that you didn’t put your time in and then we’ll probably move on from you. So you have an opportunity to not be micromanaged. Show me that you’re an adult and you can do that. I’ve never had a problem with anyone on my sales staff not working their full amount of hours and getting their jobs done. So something to be said about that.
Jordan Meinster (20:43):
Oh, totally well said.
Michael Kurland (20:48):
We’ve been talking a lot about the pandemic and how the boutique fitness industry is exploding, but I want to know about you. What is motivating you to be better right now? Is it family? Is it the drive to succeed in business or something else that we’re not talking about? What is motivating you to be better both professionally and personally?
Jordan Meinster (21:09):
I want to grow the company, right? We’ve got our big board up with our pipeline just in terms of development and people that inquire with us. Then they go through our discovery process, they sign franchise agreements, then they have to sign a lease and then they have to open. Once they open, we track how well they’re doing. So there’s a lot of development. We’ve got the right people in place. We want to be a household name. We believe that in markets, big, medium, small, PickUp USA has a place in this world in terms of bringing basketball there. That’s a big part of it. Obviously on the personal side, being able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I haven’t mentioned my wife, Casey. She’s the co-founder of the business and not just in name.
Jordan Meinster (21:59):
She always encouraged this thing, first of all, and then when I was out raising money, she was helping me put pitch packets together. We flew to Hong Kong together to pitch a previous client of mine. So, right by my side, that whole way through it. Once we finally signed a lease on a building, we were putting in 20 hour days and she was right there. My original staff, I had hired 10 people within a couple of weeks, seven of them were gone. So it was me and Casey. She had worked the front desk, I’d be reffing and she hates sales. But she would do sales. She’d get out of her comfort zone. Those were the early days and she financed this thing.
Jordan Meinster (22:40):
We ran out of money quick, but she had her day job. So in addition to working, six, seven shifts a week at PickUp USA, she had her day job, basically supporting this thing and I’d need to run payroll. We maxed out her credit cards and we had a game called credit card roulette. We had about 10 credit cards total. Most of them were maxed out and we’d go out to eat and give them one and they would get declined. We’d have to give them another one. She’s been right there throughout all of that as the business develops. She comes from the world of community mental health. She’s an administrator over there. She oversees 50 people or so, so she’s really helped us build systems in terms of supervision schedules and our training modules and everything like that.
Jordan Meinster (23:31):
I just wanted to throw that out there in terms of you asked, what’s motivating me. She’s put in so much work on this. Until recently, we haven’t really seen a dollar out of it now that the business is starting to, and we’ve got our footings. That’s what I want to give back to. So obviously myself, all the work Casey’s put in, causes that we believe in, we’re animal rights people. So we donate to shelters and things like that. And my staff, right? These are guys, I got our VP of development he’s doing well now, but it was years. He was making eight bucks an hour as a sales guy and I had high commission thresholds that he wasn’t hitting on and he could barely afford car payments.
Jordan Meinster (24:17):
He was right there by my side in a freezing cold gym, just trying to figure it out. Seeing nice paychecks getting delivered to our staff, seeing franchisees, making a lot of money, seeing them promote their staff. One of our franchise owners of Michigan, he’s now partnered with his general manager in terms of an equity stake in the business. So we’re creating jobs. We’re creating money and the hard work’s paying off. So in terms of things that are motivating me, obviously for myself, I want to I want to have things so to speak, but all the people, primarily Casey and my staff and the franchise owners, it’s a beautiful thing to see their success too.
Michael Kurland (25:09):
That’s great. That’s great. That is a great story. I love everything you’re saying. Cheers to your wife. That is amazing. Your VP, those are some good people. So you found some good people in your life and I’m happy to hear that.
Jordan Meinster (25:23):
Good beyond good.
Michael Kurland (25:25):
At Branded Group, #BeBetter to our employees is what our motto is and without them we would be nothing. So we have to take care of them, make sure that they’re happy. It jogged my memory when you said you’re taking care of a VP of development, that’s been with you forever. We’ve got some people that have been with us for almost six years. We’re about to hit our seventh year. We’ve got some that have been there for almost all of it. So it’s pretty intense. It’s pretty awesome. I love, love, love hearing these similarities. So last question. This is the same question I ask everybody, and it’s kind of the fun one. What do you consider yourself to be an expert at and what advice do you have for our audience to become an expert at said thing?
Jordan Meinster (26:13):
That’s a good question. I mean, I think there’s two sides of our business. One is operating fitness clubs. I think we’ve certainly got core competencies there. The other side is franchising and those are two totally different things. Operating a fitness club is about being a doer and being in there and doing it yourself. Franchising is about teaching people how to do it and making them make their own money. So I think in both of those regards operating fitness club and franchising are our, as a team areas of expertise. I think my primary advice with that is you’re looking to start a business, if you have a business, it’s just really about keep going, right. That the success. That’s going to come to you because there’s going to be really hard times.
Jordan Meinster (27:03):
I always hear people that haven’t run a business say the first year is the hardest. I think that’s BS, right? Because the first year you’re still, Oh, this is so exciting. I’m going to make a bunch of money. It’s year two, year three, year four. We’ve been on the sideline and you’re not making money. You get hit with torpedoes like COVID or whatever is out there. That’s when you’re truly tested. I think reasonable people give up, right? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep going. But the success stories out there are the ones that do keep going. I think every good entrepreneurial story, the first several years, even eight, nine, 10 years in some cases are just filled with lots of failures and lots of setbacks.
Jordan Meinster (27:48):
Then you hear the statement, overnight sensation, 10 years in the making. You start to see the stories once these people pop. But the stories that I really like are the ones, the books you read or the movies that you watch, where it’s this whole journey has just been setback after setback. So I think for advice, whether you’re running a fitness club or whether you’re a franchising business or whatever you’re doing, it’s just keep going, figure it out. The tough times are just moments in time and the good times will come. Eventually.
Michael Kurland (28:22):
I couldn’t agree more. Year two was definitely the hardest year for me. We’d been going so hard. I had no life. I had no social life. I was just working 20 hours a day for like 14, 16, 18 months straight. I was just like, Whoa! I wasn’t making any money. So I was like, what am I doing this for? It’s paid off at this point, but you jogged my memory with the good stories. Have you ever read I’m going to go to another book here. Have you ever read Shoe Dog, the Phil Knight, Nike story?
Jordan Meinster (28:57):
I’m familiar with that story. I’ve never read that book. Well, vaguely familiar with the story.
Michael Kurland (29:02):
It took him I want to say 20 years before he hit success. All he did was dump every dollar he ever made back into the company. You know where they’re at now. He’s had a lot of ups and downs in his life, but it’s a great book especially for an entrepreneur that’s gone through some trials, some ebbs and flows. So Shoe Dog. I highly recommend.
Jordan Meinster (29:27):
Stories like that keep you going for sure. You hear it constantly. I think until you join the club of people who have started a business, you just don’t get it. That’s not putting those people down. It is such a different world out there. Sometimes it’s isolating and you get filled with self-doubt and you wonder is this ever going to work? But when you hear stories like that, that’s what keeps you going toward the Promised Land.
Michael Kurland (29:56):
Absolutely. Well, Jordan, it’s been great having you on the show. That’s been a great conversation audience. I hope you’ve also enjoyed Jordan. If the audience wants to get a hold of you, how can they reach out?
Jordan Meinster (30:09):
Michael Kurland (30:24):
Great. Well, Jordan again, thanks for coming on and audience until next time.
I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better. Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.