My Business chats to Sydney’s Brent Grundy about doing business in Afghanistan, growing a 'fun' business and using franchising to fast-track the growth of his company Flip Out.
Penrith-based Victorian Brent Grundy is the brains behind Flip Out, a business with a unique take on ‘fun’ that involves fitting large indoor arenas with trampolines for kids of all shapes and sizes – even the adult size – to bounce on.
Since launching in 2012, using franchising as his business expansion strategy, Brent has put up some impressive numbers – 35 Flip Out locations (at time of writing) around the world and a team of around 800 people across those 35 locations.
The weathered pages in Brent’s passport resemble that of a wayfaring backpacker. There are customs entry/exit stamps from China, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Scotland, Taiwan and New Zealand, all in the last few years.
Seeking out the unusual
These are just some of the 13 countries in which Brent has opened – or is in the process of opening – Flip Out franchises. And add to that list Afghanistan, of all places!
“I always tell people, ‘You’re either on the bus or you’re under the bus, because we’re not stopping’.”
These days the stricken central Asian country wouldn’t be on the top of most Westerners’ travel bucket lists. But as Brent explains, if you’ve got a date with the Afghan President, you must oblige.
“I was over in Afghanistan in 2014 setting up a charity [Flip Out branch],” he recounts.
“We gave them a full 52-trampoline centre for the kids in Afghanistan as a bit of a pressie, so I met the President, the Mayor and the Minister of Finance.
“It was a bit of a riot … but I didn’t die. It’s a bit crazy over there – people ask me, ‘What did it feel like when you were there?’. And I tell them, ‘It felt like a bad choice, that’s for sure!’. Felt like a mouse in a house surrounded by cats!”
While still a young company, from day one Brent always intended for Flip Out to grow beyond Australia’s borders. Only a month or two after registering the company in Australia, he also registered it in New Zealand and in the UK.
“I was never just going to do it here. I’m a big-picture person with everything I do,” he says.
“I always tell people, ‘You’re either on the bus or you’re under the bus, because we’re not stopping’.
“I just got back from Beijing – we’ll get one open in Beijing in the next couple of months. We’ve got one going in in Shenzhen, two for Taiwan, one in Dubai. We’ve sold franchises in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and in Malaysia we’ve got three stores. We’ve got a lot of different stuff going on in all different places. We’ve opened three new stores in the last 30 days.”
“I was never just going to do it [in Australia]. I’m a big-picture person with everything I do.”
A fan of franchising
Prior to launching Flip Out, Brent – who admits to being more “street smart” than formally educated and has always worked for himself – had first-hand experience in franchising businesses.
He built up his previous business, an electrical safety company, to the point where he had more than 30 franchisees.
Brent is a strong advocate of using the franchise model to grow a business.
“I’ve learnt a lot about franchising and decided that when I opened up Flip Out, it’s such a community-based business and it’s not just about making money,” he says.
“It’s about engaging with the community and you can share that with other people. That was the main reason we decided to franchise rather than just having corporate stores.
Brent says he’s “covered NSW pretty well” with Flip Out franchises, which also includes setting up in more rural areas that are often neglected in business owners’ franchising plans.
“The growth strategy behind franchising in general is that it also helps fund a lot of the new sites, which lets you build multiple new sites at once without using your own cash,” he says.
“What we normally do is if we have a franchisee, that’s great, but if not, then we open it ourselves. We’ll build up the site ourselves, and then offer it to people who want to buy a franchise.
“At the moment I think we’ve got about eight corporate sites; those ones we will franchise at some stage, but at the moment we’re quite comfortable to leave them as corporate sites.”
Finding franchisees who are the right fit for Flip Out has at times been something of a challenge for Brent. After all, he’s not offering something more established, such as Subway franchises.
Selling the originality of the business idea was part of the process in bringing franchisees on board.
“It’s hard to get quality people, and people with a really good work ethic,” Brent says.
“A lot of people think they can just come in, pay some money, then can instantly make money without doing anything. It doesn’t work like that. It’ll still make money, but it’s not as rewarding financially as if they’re actually managing the store themselves.
“A franchisee will normally do twice as well as just a manager in a store. It’s their money, and they’ll always care about every cent and worry about every hour that they need to have someone on for.”
There are currently 28 Flip Out locations in Australia. Around half of those are owned and run by franchisees – and, in a testament to the merit and originality of the business, one franchisee owns six sites.
“Most of our franchisees try to buy a second site in the first three or four months,” Brent explains.
“So a lot of our franchisees are multiple-site owners, which is a good thing.”
All about charity
Through Flip Out, Brent has made more than minimum wage, to say the least. And even though the financial situation at home was rather dire for him and his young family before Flip Out was born, Brent is adamant that that the business gives back via charity organisations for disabled and disadvantaged kids.
“It’s not just about money for us – even if we only broke even every week, I’d still do it,” he says.
“It wouldn’t faze me at all. And when we’re hiring people, we always make sure we get people who aren’t just about themselves. Who don’t have the egos – who know that there’s more than just them in the room.
“Kids are kids – it doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, they’re still kids at the end of the day. Everyone smiles at the word ‘trampolines’. And everybody wants to jump on them, doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll give it a go. By the end of it we’ll see if we can try and get every kid to have a jump at Flip Out, whether they’re in a poor country or a rich country.”
“It’s not just about money for us – even if we only broke even every week, I’d still do it.”
Flip Out and beyond
Being the big-picture kind of bloke that he is – and riding on the wave of success that Flip Out has amassed in Australia in a short time – Brent’s next step may include selling the Flip Out master franchise for Australia.
“I’m at the stage now with the Australian stores that I’ve got so much going on overseas that we’re looking at selling the master franchise for Australia,” he explains.
“That’s one of the options at the moment, and it’s just because we’ve got so many other areas of the world that are good markets for us to go and do. I’d like to spend some time and go get those up and running too.”
Business: Flip Out Trampoline Area
Industry: Indoor trampolining
Location: 35 premises across 13 countries