Recently, I had the displeasure of telling our Body Boss customers we were shutting down August 31st. I’ve been dreading these calls since we zombified Body Boss as of April last year – see 21 Lessons from Failure and Moving On.
Thoughts on zombification and the calls…
  •  Zombification allowed the team to showcase as a portfolio piece for other opportunities. Though not a “success” like Facebook or Uber, Body Boss was a success in many other ways. Don Pottinger and Darren Pottingerare leading amazing startups today while Andrew Reifman is growing an impressive client portfolio with beautiful UI/ UX.
  • Zombification delays the inevitable. When you are no longer working on your product or business, the market will let you go like you did.
  • Little issues become big annoyances. During zombification, we all transitioned to other opportunities. However when bugs came up, they took time to reorient ourselves back to the code.
  • Be honest. My voice was noticeably trembling on every call. But given our honesty and trust we built, customers understood our position and were supportive of us with Body Boss and beyond.
  • Have a transition plan. We notified customers in May of the sunset in August so teams could continue using Body Boss during the off-season while finding alternatives. This was appreciated.
  • Speak in-person/ on-phone. The partners who have stuck by us deserved our time. We spoke to our top partners on the phone, and resorted to email for scale.

I was scared to make the calls; however, they went well, and each call showed why I love building great products and brands… that is, we had real fans. Each call was a moment we could take pride in – hearing how much our product was loved and support moving forward. We created that from nothing but an idea…

What are your thoughts on leaving a company, product idle (“zombified”)? How would you handle sunsetting the business including notifying customers and other partners? What would make transitioning easier for you as a customer?
As I say to others, “I got this.”

Soccer’s been on my mind recently with several blog posts already this year, but last Tuesday’s soccer games illustrated yet another important revelation in my entrepreneurial, professional, and personal life… and it’s this notion that Quality Breeds Trust.

Last week, I was asked to fill in for two other games after my own. You could really see the disparities in quality from team to team, even before each game started. During warm-ups, you could see who was serious, who wasn’t. You could see who had a good technical touch, who didn’t. And in the opening five minutes of each game, all those earlier impressions were dead-on. That, in effect, had a drastic effect on how I played from simple things like positioning to passes. With lower quality players, everything had to be much more direct and calculated. With greater players, I could be more creative and play more piercing passes.
I remember when I started playing Silverbacks 7v7 so many years ago (damn, I’ve gotten old), I started out with one of my best buds, Don Pottinger – co-founder of Body Boss, programmer extraordinaire now plying his trade at ATV. He was so freaky fast, strong, and skilled that when I had the ball in our defensive half and I had to “clear it”, I would send the ball down the line or into a far corner. I knew that I could put it in no man’s land and before that ball went out of bounds, Don would latch onto it. We’d be off and attacking in seconds.
When you have quality players on your team, you let players make the play. You can see this happening any given Sunday – with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. When Stafford’s in trouble, he scrambles, and he’ll oftentimes lob it to the freak that is CJ trusting in CJ’s ability to make the play.
Sometimes, taking risks like throwing into triple coverage is okay… let great players make great plays! This is the Stafford to Johnson connection in the Lions-Bengals game from October 20, 2013. (Image source: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5491/10388278066_cca092c634_o.gif)
In a different way, you also have generalists like a player of James Milner’s capability of the current Barclays Premier Leaguechampions Manchester City. Milner’s not the most skilled defender or the lethal attacker of many others, but he’s a solid utility player that can be placed in any position, and his work ethic makes him invaluable.
(Image source: http://i4.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/incoming/article8853577.ece/alternates/s615/464323506.jpg)
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini on Milner: “I understand. I’m Milner’s No1 fan. Find me a more complete English player. There are players who’re better technically, yes. Quicker players, yes. Players who head better, yes. But show me one who does all the things Milner does well. There isn’t one.”
You can also trust quality players when they take on risks. It’s just part of their game. So called “risky plays” or their audacity to take on three, four defenders may have low probabilities of success, but it’s okay. It’s okay if it doesn’t come off because risk is inherent in their game… inherent to being great and to pull everyone else forward. For quality players, plays are calculated risks.
There’s an obvious quality and trust relationship in entrepreneurship, of course. They go hand-in-hand. In a startup team, the world is changing so fast that having high quality team members you can trust enables the team to act at speed. At Body Boss, I knew that Andrew had some slick designs and UX in queue for new features while Don and Darren were working hard building new features for our coaches and players. Meanwhile, I was out closing deals and handling logistics for our upcoming coaching clinics. There was no need for any one of us to micro-manage each other. That’d be a waste of time anyways.
From quarterbacks to wide receivers, center-mids to forwards, and sales people to engineers, quality breeds trust. Quality can take on many forms in skills and capabilities to an individual’s work ethic and personality… specialists to generalists. In any case, you know quality when you see it. Give them difficult tasks or ambiguous projects, and they’ll somehow find a way to nail it. With high quality players, you just have to trust them and let them make the plays.
What else influences trust? How else do sports not only build character but foster leadership and teamwork?
Last week’s post about the hiatus of Body Boss received a lot of good, supportive feedback – 21 Lessons from Failure. That was interesting to me because it wasn’t a letter to the world about the close of Body Boss as much as it was about a learning opportunity. Instead, I wanted to follow up the lessons learned with a personal letter, but I didn’t know really how to begin. However, I believe a serial entrepreneur has just given me the spark with his one simple question:

Does humility factor anywhere in terms of your lessons learned from Body Boss?

Absolutely!
Body Boss has been incredibly humbling for not just myself, but for the whole team. Body Boss has helped me realize the hardwork needed to build a successful business and what it means to build a brand you can be proud of. We started Body Boss full of confidence, energy, and lofty goals, but we have to balance that with a healthy dose of humility. Yet, in a lot of ways, confidence and humility aren’t necessarily on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they work closer together. It’s been an incredible experience learning more about our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s not lost on me how much there is still for me to learn and grow, and that will never end. 
For me, personally, I’m disappointed I didn’t lead the team to success. Body Boss was the creation of everyone around us, not just the Body Boss team. I’m a product of my family, my friends, Georgia Tech, Emory, and so much more. It’s why we kept our family and friends up-to-date on our progress in addition to our customers and partners. We have had amazing support from everyone around us, and we are so grateful. It’s incredibly sad to let everyone around me down now. Sales make or break a company, and as such, I shoulder much of the blame. I’ve been learning from my mistakes, and I have to now take those lessons learned and improve them.
I’m saddened for the incredible Body Boss community that we couldn’t create a vast nation of like-minded coaches, trainers, and athletes to share their achievements to motivate each other for greater. Body Boss was built on a premise of “Motivation through Team Competition”. In a word – inspiration. Inspiration to achieve greater.
In the afterglow of Body Boss, I can relish being a part of an amazing team. The mastermind behind Body Boss’s inception was none other than Darren Pottinger – a true Brains meets Brawn entrepreneur. His tenacity and thirst to learn and dream big is second to none. Don Pottinger was the glue that brought us all together and the man who really made Body Boss come to life and hum. He labored so many hours late at night trouble-shooting and refining Body Boss into a better product for our customer-partners. And of course, all the amazing graphics, the sleek designs that landed us on so many creative sites… credit that to the revered Andrew Reifman. There wasn’t a soul around who wasn’t impressed with his amazing work. These are THE BEST guys in their fields – I know that.
People ask me what my Next Move is. I’m not entirely sure. It’s funny, but after my little Personal Renaissance during grad school, I’m now at this intersection where I’m firmly devout in what I want to do, but I don’t know where that means I should go next.
In any event, I do know I need to keep building off the lessons learned and to keep growing. Am I eager to start a new venture? Absolutely. I reflect plenty, and I’ll continue to write about entrepreneurial ideas including Body Boss, and share my thoughts with the World. I hope my writing inspires others to pursue their passions – startups, painting, pursuing European soccer glory (I can still do that, maybe?), or anything else others are scared to chase and grab right now. For me, I’m reaching for the opportunity to build companies to provide jobs, to build a smarter, healthier future, and to leave a legacy of my family, my friends, and my communities.
I’ve always wanted to be a Great Leader for others, and with that, I do have to constantly find the balance and inter-play between confidence and self-belief with humility. Body Boss was a great experience for all of us in becoming more humble. It’s allowed us to learn and develop for the next chapters in our lives. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this Dream Team. As we may sunset this endeavor, I’m excited for where each of us goes from here. I firmly believe we’re all destined for great things.
So to all of you, our supporters, I say this with every ounce of my being and with eternal gratification: THANK YOU.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger