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Khaled Alhinti: Remodeling Conventional Fitness Approach with Innovative Franchising Leadership

Today, franchise leadership has become the latest buzzword within the industrial domain. Franchise leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of steering the organization through all sorts of odds and hurdles. Moreover, they are expected to bring improvements to the processes, products, and people in ways that are logical, trainable, and repeatable within the financial grasp of all franchisees. A prime example of remarkable franchise leadership is demonstrated by Khaled Alhinti.

Khaled spearheads Aqtab International (9Round Exclusive Master Franchisee in Middle East, North African, Turkey and South Korea) as the CEO. Under his leadership, the franchise has accomplished enormous success and has garnered several accolades. Delivering comprehensive and quality fitness and health programs, 9Round Fitness is a dedicated fitness center for people who want a unique, fun, and consistent workout. The center’s themed fitness program includes functional training regimens, cardiovascular exercises, and more.

During a recent conversation with Mirror Review, Khaled briefed about his roles and responsibilities as a franchise leader while sharing his views on the evolution of the franchise industry. He also elaborated about the company’s future plans. Following are the snippets from the insightful conversation.

Can you please walk us through your educational or professional journey? What factors motivated you to pursue franchise leadership?

I hold a bachelor’s degree majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. During my graduation, I interned with General Electric in the Lean Six Sigma department, where I learned the foundations of quality, efficiency, and productivity. Later onwards, I worked in the consulting firm McKinsey & Company where I built strategies and delivered on-the-ground retail turnarounds. This further enabled me to hone my skills around growth and transformation.

Right before 9Round, I worked at Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN) which was an early setup phase where I focused on governance, organization setup, and team building. These experiences put me in a great position by allowing me to grow an international company that focuses on franchising international brands and quickly scaling them in local contexts.

Can you please walk us through the establishment history of 9Round Fitness?

9Fitness Round was established in 2008. The company’s first office was established in Greenville, South Carolina in the US by Shannon Hudson (an IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing World Champion) along with his wife Heather Hudson. The company’s first location served as the testing and proving ground for the concept of its 30-minute kickboxing circuit workout. After a year in its initial location, the first 9Round franchise was sold to a member of the gym and by 2012, the company had grown to 100 locations.

Today, 9Round has expanded all over the world with locations in numerous countries—with many more in various stages of development. The company provides the concept and know-how to its franchisees, including operating manuals, trainings, technologies and systems, identifying suppliers, and marketing strategies.

Being at the helm of the company, what are your primary roles and responsibilities? What measures do you incorporate to ensure intact motivation and productivity in the workspace?

In my view, my roles and responsibilities as a CEO can be summarized in three things:

  • Building an efficient and healthy organization that attracts the best talents, enables them to be effective, and gives them room to grow.
  • Growing the company’s revenue by ensuring we provide excellent products/ services while listening and reacting to our customer’s feedback.
  • Eliminating or Limiting major risks whether it is related to competition, regulation, or other areas (such as COVID-19)

I let my team come up with the projects that they want to work on after aligning with the company’s goals and objectives. This helps a lot in keeping them motivated and excited. Once we agree on them, I let them present their projects (as well as the progress on a regular basis) to the wider executive team (and in some cases to the whole organization) which increases the level of ownership and commitment. Throughout my tenure, I have provided the team with continuous strength-based and actionable feedback to help them meet their potential. I also host regular off site gatherings where we discuss the things that are going well and the things that need to be fixed.

What are your opinions on the latest trends emerging within the franchising industry? Do you think these trends have benefitted the future of the industry? If yes, how?

Over the past few years, I have noticed that the franchise industry has grown across all sectors, whether they are product based or service based. This growth comes from natural continuation of two things—Brands simplifying the franchise process and agreements and governments increasing the ease of doing business. Moreover, business owners leverage these circumstances to run operations without the worry of proving new concepts, hence reducing a critical startup risk.

Second, I see more conversations between franchisors and franchisees around localizing concepts to specific countries to better serve demand. This could result in creative collaborations or disagreements, which reinforces the importance of having partner-like relationships between parties rather than transactional ones. Third, I see knowledge sharing between franchisors across different countries increasing in pace and depth. Although this has been happening since a while, the COVID-19 recovery has accelerated the practice which I expect to continue. This could result in franchisees being stronger SMEs than their local rivals due to the collective knowledge and experiences.

What upcoming services and solutions are anticipated by 9Round Fitness?

Aqtab International is very excited about its growth plans with 9Round Kickboxing Fitness across multiple countries in the MENAT region and South Korea as we continue to advocate for simple and practice fitness programs. Additionally, we are also considering partnering with brands in other sectors leveraging our operational and institutional knowledge in the franchising business.

 Competitive Advantages for 9Round Franchisee:

  • Concept (Core product, Operational Playbook, Best Practices, and Product and Training Innovations)
  • Training programs to ensure providing high-quality services and meeting brand standards
  • Operational support through identifying trusted suppliers and approved products


“At 9Round, we offer a kickboxing-themed fitness program that incorporates functional, interval, cardiovascular, and circuit training regimens.”



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