“It’s always been a dream of mine to be an American Ninja Warrior,” says Kevin Bull, an American Ninja Warrior and general manager of DojoBoom, a park for extreme aerial recreation. “It’s not easy because there’s a ton of people who want to apply for the show. About 60,000-plus people apply for one season, and only about 600 actually get the chance. That’s tough odds.”
Bull himself defeated the odds and is now training to compete in his sixth season as an American Ninja Warrior on the show. “My first year, I didn’t make it through the regular casting process, so I found another way,” says Bull. “I camped out in front of the course and basically begged for a chance to run the course to get on. I was fortunate enough to get one of those run spots, and once I was there, I did the best that I could. I finished well and had a standout performance in the finals, and I’ve been back on the show ever since.”
Since then, Bull has gone on to apply his skill sets and knowledge gained from his American Ninja Warrior experience to working as the general manager of DojoBoom. The park first opened its doors in November of 2017 and has been a popular aerial recreation spot ever since. “We have over 20 different attractions here,” says Bull. “We have trampolines, dodge ball, a full-size ninja course, parkour, rock climbing, air tracks, silks, a half trapeze—and the best are probably our super tramps and wall tramps, which are these large Olympic-size trampolines that we’ve put walls around so you can do some pretty awesome tricks.”
DojoBoom is part of a larger company called CircusTrix, which was founded in 2011 and is the world’s leading developer, operator and franchisor of indoor trampoline and aerial sports parks. The company owns and operates more than 300 facilities worldwide, including brands like Sky Zone, Superfly and Rockin’Jump. With the indoor recreational industry set to grow by $1.83 billion by 2023, CircusTrix is positioned ahead of the game.
The burden of managing payrolls and expenses, while staying compliant with laws and regulations, can quickly become overwhelming for any business. From how benefits time is managed, to the ways taxes are withheld for each employee, the payables and human resources part of the business is daunting and vulnerable to human errors. According to Fundera’s research, 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year, and 50 percent fail after five years. In addition to the familiar reasons such as lack of sufficient funding or drop in market demand, misguided cash flow management is a big part of business failure, especially when it comes to tracking receivables against payables.
“When systems are brought in to improve operations efficiency and to mitigate risk, system flexibility matters,” says Patrick Haffey, vice president of capital markets at East West Bank. “Our integrated payables system meets this challenge, and its user-level controls allow the customer to customize their workflow and approval process.”
With CircusTrix’s explosive growth over the last three years, the need to consolidate and streamline finances grew stronger. “When I first joined the company, everyone in every region had their own banks, credit cards and accounts,” says Shea Smith, corporate controller at CircusTrix. “So one of the first things that East West Bank helped us do was to bring our finances into three core accounts—our disbursement, payroll and general accounts—and East West Bank handles all of the volume that comes through those accounts.”
East West Bank’s integrated payables system was first introduced in 2018, targeted specifically for small to mid-market businesses in their growth stage, in need of better financial efficiency. “The integrated payables system is very secure and eliminates manual dual entries, enables straight-through processing, allows customers to review and release high-value payments online, and notifies the customer when files are received and processed,” says David Barbarics, vice president and GTS product manager at East West Bank. “You can transmit all of the payment instructions to us in a single file, and we can arrange and process your payments in the right format.” Whether that format is a flat file or a customized payables file (such as EDI, ISO 20022, NACHA or SWIFT MT103), the integrated payables system helps customers save time by converting all files into a single format and processing a higher volume of payments.
“The client could send one file that includes wires, ACH and check issue transactions, eliminating the need for the customer to access multiple systems, which helps streamline the payment process," Haffey says. "After transmitting this electronic file to the bank, the customer doesn’t need to do anything more.” While many banks have a minimum threshold for the number of transactions to be processed, East West Bank’s service offering doesn’t require a minimum because the product system is scalable to meet the customer’s specific needs, no matter the volume.
“Last September, we reached out to East West Bank to inform them that we were starting a new system to bring the payroll in-house and that we’d be needing to pay over 3,000 employees, so just the volume of those bi-weekly payables was kind of daunting,” says Leslie Nielson, an accountant at CircusTrix. “We were able to find a resolution thanks to East West Bank and got together with their integrated payables team. They were super helpful, and once we got the resources from our implementation team linked up with the payroll system at East West Bank, they helped us get a good plan in place, and it was a pretty seamless integration.”
By transitioning to the integrated payables system, CircusTrix was able to decrease human errors by reducing manual and double-data entry, increase cybersecurity and fraud detection across its financial supply chain, increase visibility on payments with electronic payments, and increase cash flow through faster processing. “We started the transitioning process in October of 2018 and went live with the new system the first week of January,” says Nielson. “But we didn’t really start the banking test runs until the middle of December. The integrated payables system was running and working within less than a month.”
Despite being the umbrella company for many recreational parks around the world, CircusTrix allows for the personalization and localization of each park. “We’re a multi-retail shop at the core, and having to deal with locations all across the world, it just didn’t make sense to have to dictate to each of the parks, and we wanted our general managers to really be involved in that,” says Smith. “What we needed centralization on was our financial system, in order to have the working capital and cash deposits for our many locations.”
Bull, for example, helped in the creative feel and design of his park, DojoBoom. “My biggest contribution would have to be the ninja warrior course that we have here—I designed the layout of that and drew from my own experience with multiple TV shows,” says Bull. “But really, it takes a lot of people to put together a big place like this and a lot of people working toward the same goal of producing the world’s best place for aerial recreation.”
Bull helped to open DojoBoom with hopes to share some of the fun and positive attributes that these activities can bring to people. “One of the things you get out of this kind of experience and training is that you’re building a lot of confidence about your body and how you move through space,” says Bull, “and that’s hugely functional. A lot of people talk about functional fitness, but there’s nothing more functional than learning how to move your body efficiently. And as your confidence grows, you can take it and use it in everyday life, whether that’s getting over a fence more easily or looking at a couch and thinking I can jump over that instead of walking around it. You see a different way of living, and it’s a lot of fun.”
“The integrated payables system is very secure and eliminates manual dual entries, enables straight-through processing, allows customers to review and release high-value payments online, and notifies the customer when files are received and processed."
So, what does being an American Ninja Warrior and running a business have in common? According to Bull, there are a number of things. “I’ve definitely applied my experience as a ninja warrior to being a business manager, especially one like DojoBoom,” he says. “It’s my involvement with the show that spearheaded my position here. I know the obstacles, and I know what makes them fun, and I’ve tried to bring that kind of fun here for the everyday person.”
In addition to being open to the public, DojoBoom also serves as a training facility for other American Ninja Warriors, junior ninjas and celebrities. “I think the traits of being an American Ninja Warrior are perfectly suited for being an entrepreneur,” says Bull. “You’ve got to think outside the box, and you’ve got to be able to put forth new ideas, apply things that you know, or take things that may not be obviously related to get a better result.”
Bull believes in the power of tenacity and thinking outside the box. “My advice to other entrepreneurs if you want to be ninja-like, is that there’s always more than one way through an obstacle,” he says. “Try and think about all your options before you choose a path, because there’s a lot of things out there that may not be obvious, and sometimes those are the things that other people aren’t doing and can give you an advantage.”
Bull, along with other American Ninja Warriors, is currently competing in the show’s 11th season, which takes place in various cities across the U.S. Fifteen winners from each city will then head to Las Vegas to compete on a four-stage course with up to 23 obstacles. The new season premiered on NBC on May 29th.