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How This COO Learned to Scale His Business from Serving in the U.S. Army


Dan Murphy comes from a military family and naturally followed the footsteps of his father to become an Army Captain. A graduate of West Point, Murphy is an Army Veteran and a former NCAA athlete. Eventually leaving his military career behind him, certain elements stuck with him as he became Chief Operating Officer of the gym franchise D1 Training, growing the company from its founding to a 60-plus unit franchise with over 200 facilities in development.



The lesson is simple – your business is only as strong as its weakest link. Dan Murphy credits the military’s command control structure in helping him successfully scale D1 Training, a leading fitness concept utilizing the five core tenets of athletic-based training to help people of all ages, from youth athletes to fitness-minded adults, achieve their sport and fitness goals. 


Murphy served in the Army from 1996 to 2001 before he moved to Nashville to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University. After leaving the Army, he realized he missed the sense of accountability and team training it gave him. While in Nashville, Murphy came across D1 and quickly became friends with owner Will Bartholomew, and soon became the COO in 2005, helping to grow the business. As COO, he oversees company partnerships and monitors operational and strategic priorities for the franchise management team. 


Murphy has played an integral part of the company’s expansion, helping turn D1 into a multi-million-dollar franchise company. Attributing the military to his ongoing success, Murphy shares his greatest lessons learned and how they have transitioned to business growth and development.


Your Team is Your Greatest Asset 


Whether in the Army or in business, you must understand the value of your people – your team. With a strong, accountable team all aligned on the same mission, you become an unstoppable force. 


Understand this and commit to investing in your team. Amid the pandemic, Murphy invested in team coaching via a partnership with Novus Global, and immediately saw a direct correlation with bottom-line results. 


Additionally, you should set a routine process and system in place for your team. Murphy says every solider gets the same training so that if something breaks down, you can easily identify it at the highest level. It’s all about keeping those systems dialed in – from how you identify sites, to hiring staff, to getting members in the door. Without this and a strong team, you will not be able to scale successfully. 


Murphy understands that he does not have all the answers, and frequently seeks feedback from his employees and franchisees. He utilizes a hand-off approach and trusts his team to show up every day and do well. 


Eliminate Failure as an Option


Whether you’re a military captain or C-suite exec, you must accept that not everything goes your way. 


Sometimes, our first reaction to a new challenge or obstacle is fear – fear that failure is looming in our future. That’s natural, but don’t fear the challenge itself. The true test becomes perseverance – mental toughness matters. Murphy said learning perseverance taught him to stick to the mission no matter what the jobs is. Having discipline is one of his biggest assets. 


Change your perspective and look at challenges as an opportunity to test your ability, grow your resiliency, and even learn something new. Eliminating failure and keeping a positive outlook will go a long way toward making the challenge less daunting.


See the Vision


Identify and communicate your vision with your team. What do you hope to achieve? This will allow you and your team to redirect your energies to a higher purpose and know the work you do each day is making a positive difference toward that vision. 


Your employees serve as brand ambassadors and are often the initial point of contact for your members – new and existing. We are always striving to inspire each of our employees to remember the impact they are making. At D1, Murphy says the company espouses the aspirational qualities that Division 1 athletes represent – it’s a lifestyle of character and commitment. Everyone is there to achieve their own goal within that framework and that is not something every company, or gym, has. 


The early lessons he learned from his military days still hold true: there is strength in numbers. With 60-plus units open and over 200 in development, Murphy encourages other veterans to use their experience to their advantage by joining the D1 franchise system, as they offer financial discounts on the franchise opportunity. Having the opportunity to serve others in more ways than one is what Murphy loves most about his career – it is truly a part of who he is as a person.