How often are you walking around when you notice someone wearing a Jawbone Up or Nike Fuel band?  They’re really starting to blow up and be everywhere, aren’t they?  The movement for wearable technology is just a growing wave, poised to be a tidal wave that consumes the world along with Google Glass, smart watches, and of course, those wearable devices for fitness.

I have a Jawbone Up — received as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law for graduation earlier this year.  It’s always intrigued me being a guy who loves to quantify myself because I’m always looking to be smarter, faster, stronger, whatever.  I’ve always been a terrible sleeper, and the Up band’s ability to track my sleep patterns was a pretty cool function (how accurately is another question).  I did have a couple issues with my band, but I found myself wanting to get it remedied with Jawbone quickly not necessarily because I wanted to track my sleep or count my steps.  I missed having it on my wrist not just because I felt lighter without it on my wrist.  Instead, I missed having it to showcase to the world that I care about exercising and I’m kinda nerdy so I want to quantify it.  Odd thing it’s become.

Ryan Hoover, a blogger, wrote an article about how he has a Jawbone Up, but admittedly, doesn’t track anything anymore (see the article here).  The original novelty had worn off for him.  However, he continues to wear it simply because of the “branding” it provides.  When I go out and see someone with an Up band, there’s almost this subtle head nod to the other person.  Or if I see someone with one or one of the other wearables, I automatically have a notion that this person is an exerciser, and I immediately shift that person in my head to a different category of person.  (Because I value fitness and health.)

The underlying notion I’ve appreciated more as I tote this wristband is the idea of personal branding.  It’s this notion that we’re all marketers kind of like how we’re all salespeople (see Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human) — we sell who we are to get a date, we sell a suggestion for dinner, we sell our athletic prowess to get a spot on the team, or just outright, we sell for our job.  And with this thinking, here’s what I’ve kind of learned in general and as an entrepreneur…

  • You do care.  Everyone says they don’t stereotype, but what you wear, how you present yourself in an email, everything is being scrutinized.  Why?  Because you care about who you interact with.  Plain and simple.  What someone wears, what someone says, it all paints some story for you.  I think we all like psychology to an extent because we like to hypothesize that person’s story. So mind how you communicate…
  • You’re a walking, talking billboard.  You might actually have a company’s logo plastered on your chest, or you may have a partially eaten fruit icon lit up all nice and bright on your computer.  Other than that, little details are sometimes amplified depending on what others value.  Something like a small wristband can convey a big message.  As an entrepreneur, you should realize that what you wear, say, and do can represent your company, too.
human billboard
  • Market to the audience.  I think one of the challenges some entrepreneurs… actually, everyone has is that sometimes we get hurt if our idea or who we are doesn’t resonate with certain people.  I did a pitch of Body Boss to a room full of investors, entrepreneurs, students, and teachers in business school.  It resonated with half, while the other half felt otherwise.  At the end of the day, you should understand that not everyone is going to have the same value for what you do or who you are.  You have to understand that you’re marketing to a TARGETED audience, not everyone.  Side note: respect everyone even if that “value” is not the same.
  • Be one with your audience. Speaking of marketing to your audience, know what your target audience values and who they are — talk the talk, walk the walk.  I once was pitching Body Boss to some potential coaches, and I was using some silly b-school lingo.  The coaches called me out, and I realized we weren’t even speaking the same language.
  • Be ready.  You never really know who you’re going to run into.  Be respectful, courteous, and potentially, your eccentric self.  I got a flat on my bike while mountain biking once, and while walking my bike back to my car, a fellow mountain biker stopped and gave me one of his bike tubes and helped me fix my flat.  I later learned he was an Senior Vice President of a large bank.
  • Love yourself.  That sounds cheesy and kinda “hippie”, but I’m sticking to it.  I think that we’re all at this interesting point in the world where things are getting generic.  People are trying to fit into some trend (Crossfit, certain phones, maybe even this trend of “entrepreneurship”) or trying to fit in to get a job, for example.  However, I also see this other half of the world where personalization and people are trying to be different with loud-colored shoes, more free-spirited communication.  Technology ubiquity has led to a broader range of products and services to reach audiences everywhere.  Be yourself, and people who matter (audience, remember?), will value you, too.
  • Be careful of stereotyping or being stereotyped.  It’s a tough balancing act to temper our original scrutiny with what is real.  No good answers for that here.  Instead, I can only say that you have to be ready to pivot that original idea.  Build your personal brand to market to the right people so you get that introduction to validate/ change perceptions.
  • You represent more than yourself.  Like it or not, you represent more than you.  I represent my family, my friends, Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Emory, etc.  Different situations, different audiences… they will put you in some category(-ies).  This can be controversial because people oftentimes don’t want to be “pegged” as something.  However, you will be; it’s human nature.  In this case, use this as an opportunity to either shift those notions or as a way to adjust how to change your personal brand.  You’ll have to decide how you want to represent yourself and those you may be affiliated with.
What do you think about personal branding either through what you wear, how you interact with others, what you wear, etc.?  How have you changed public perception through your own personal brand?

Last Friday, I had the chance to sit down with several successful entrepreneurs over lunch.  (Successful in this case being “happy” about their previous startups’ outcomes either sold or otherwise while under their leadership.)  Over the lunch, I remember introducing some of the entrepreneurs to each other, but after that, I feel as if I might have spoke too much.  You ever get that feeling that you were a bit of a chatter box?

That evening before bed, I felt a bit guilty about it, and as I often do, reflected on my day’s events — what happened, what did I like, what didn’t I like, and what could I have done better.  I realize now that I’ve come to this point where a cocktail of confidence, passion, and experiential exuberance mixed too strong can be interpreted as arrogance and rigidity.  The experiential exuberance, in this case represents, is the energy I have from lessons learned through building a startup and other “wise” events through life.  No one actually said I was arrogant, but I felt that I could have been interpreted that way — if that’s my own feeling, then perhaps that’s how it was perceived.

While brainstorming stopgates for the future, I read a fitting article on LinkedIn — “Finding Strength in Humility” by Tony Schwartz from the NY Times’ Dealbook.  As you can imagine, the article talked about the importance of exercising humility as a leader.  Too often, leaders exude the “positives” of strength, courage and decisiveness without the balancing act of tempering those qualities from being excessive.  Some thoughts melding the article, my past, and what happened for the future:

  • Too much of a good thing (like confidence, tenacity) can be a bad thing.  Exercise patience and know it’s okay to let others not only speak, but to share their thoughts and actually listen.
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know — I’ll get back to you on that.”  No, seriously, get back to someone on that.  I was recently on a call for one of my consulting projects, and I was asked a question to which I spent a minute on the call fumbling through documents on my end to figure it out.  I should’ve just told the client I’d get back to them.
  • You have two ears and one mouth.  Heard this saying before?  If you’ve surrounded yourself with people smarter than you, you should do well to sit and listen to what they have to say.
  • Do speak up, and pass the baton.  Obviously, sitting in a group means so little if you don’t say anything at all.  You still want to leave an impression, after all.  Instead, just be sure to speak up, and pass the baton for others to talk.
  • Introduce others.  If you’re introducing new people, make sure they get a chance to converse with one another.  Networking is more about how you connect others and less about how you connect with others.
  • Read the faces.  As you talk to people in the group, be sure to gauge everyone’s facial expressions.  You may find others who are wanting to chime in, but may feel uncomfortable to do so.  Similar to the above points, try to ease those people into the conversation.  They’ll feel thrilled that you’d help them in, and you’ll feel great for getting them in.
It’s clear to me that I still have a ways to go to be an inspiring and effective leader.  Not just in groups, but I should start exercising humility even when I’m alone.  Confidence can be a tricky thing, but as an entrepreneur, especially, I feel there is a more careful balancing act of being confident in your startup and your capabilities and knowing that there are still ways to better your product, your skills.  Genuineness through humility can go a long way to not only communicating and inspiring others to follow your vision, but to buy your product, or simply have a friendly lunch.
At the end of the day, it’s being able to call on all these different tools you gather through your journeys to more effectively communicate to the audience in front of you.
How have you negotiated the trapeze of confidence vs. over-confidence in communicating with others?  What are some other tips when in groups of people that I didn’t include?

(Source: http://superblog.crazyengineers.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/wrong-problem.jpg)

Quartz isn’t a publication that I’m well-versed in, however, I stumbled upon an article on qz.com by Drew Williams arguing some of the validity of marketing expenditures for startups – “$1 is too much for most startups to spend on marketing”. Williams is an entrepreneur and a co-author of Feed the Startup Beast: A 7 Step Guide to Big, Hairy, Outrageous Sales Growth

Now, the title slapped me in the face as one of those, “what??  $1?!  Too much?!”  And the exclamatory questions continued.  But after reading the article, I fully get it, and now, his advice and this article is one of my favorites.  The gist of the argument is that startups tend to spend a lot of money on marketing looking for growth when the real deal in achieving growth and sustainability is simply taking a closer inspection of the products and services provided by the companies. 
Williams cites, “over half of all startups are gone within five years” and “only 30% ever make it to 10 years”.
These are pretty scary numbers, but sharing an anecdote where a company was going spend lots of money with Williams and his marketing team on marketing services to drive sales, Williams uncovered a problem much deeper and far greater – existing customers weren’t signing up for recurring services.  So here, you have a business that is looking to grow when the momentum they’re trying to build on wasn’t actually momentum at all other than the initial spike because customers weren’t in love with what they bought.  There were problems including the payment processing that just scared customers from signing up for recurring services.
I can appreciate this deeply.  One of the most exciting things you’ll ever experience is the early sales after you’ve launched your business.  You start with nothing, and build it into a product that people are actually buying.  But what really discourages you and drives you to go nuts is watching user engagement fall after that initial excitement.  In some ways, you want to say, “bah, they just don’t get it… they aren’t appreciating what we’re doing”, and it’s “easy” to try to move on and try to make more sales.  However, this is incredibly terrible thinking.  As Williams points out, sales almost means nothing if you can’t even ride on the success and recurring services from existing customers.
The companies that succeed (those that exist after years and years including those acquired), are those who listen to the customers.  Successful products and services evolve as the market starts showing you what is lacking in your service or product offering.  In our case with Body Boss, we’ve had to continually refine our app.  It’s a million times better than what we first launched it as.  Getting insight from our customers is critical as we, too, have seen user engagement wane.  And sometimes, it’s hard to get our customers to open up with what needs to be simplified, fixed, or pursued otherwise. 
The funny thing is when you start to rationalize that your product is perfect and the market is wrong.  It’s really a poor excuse. Your product is supposed to address the market, and hopefully, a pain-point of the market.  The product doesn’t make the market.  For Body Boss and for other startups, it’s important to take a hard look at your product and ask your customers how to make a more compelling product.  Williams provides three simple questions that should help you communicate with your customers and tell you if you’re going down the right path:
1.      “What should we stop doing?”
2.      “What should we keep doing?”
3.      “What should we start doing?”
This also leads to a couple other points that will be talked about in later posts:
  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH – I don’t mean to necessarily go to the library or Google and start researching market sizes, key words, etc.  I mean doing real hands-on research vis-à-vis talking to your potential customers.  They will tell you what people really want.  But be careful to also not take just general “I like that” vs. what people will actually pay for.
  2. Depending on the market you’re trying to approach or if you’re trying change actual PROCESSES of how a potential market currently operates, it may be critical to communicative first customers.

Those are obviously not the only two critical components to building a desirable product.  However, as I read Williams’ article, I thought more about my own experiences and others’.  With the abundance of data thrown at you with marketing efforts, really your best marketing device is your product or service offering.  Networking plays such a huge role in your business’s growth in the form of simple word-of-mouth.  So take care of your most important marketing engine before you plow money into the wrong area.
So what are your thoughts?  Have you seen where marketing budget was just thrown at the business to boost sales when perhaps the problem was truly in the current product or service offering? 

Thought this was a good article from my LinkedIn feed: 10 Tips to be an Effective Innovator by Gijs van Wulfen.  Innovation is one of those buzzwords that people think is for entrepreneur or companies with disruptive technology.  However, it’s really applicable everywhere.

From a supply chain transformation perspective, outsourcing logistics (for example) can be innovative.  The tasks to accomplish this feat are tough, and you will find yourself on one side of the table challenged by internal team members.  You may be in the position where you need to be the one to connect all the dots (key stakeholders) and really drive change.

In startups, innovation is the name of the game really.  Point 4 about Discovering Needs is so critical.  Being innovative means nothing if you don’t know the pain points of your target market.  Further, you can quickly realize potentially an innovative way to approach a problem by brainstorming with prospective customers.  It’s likely that founders of startups have been in a particular industry for a while so much of their experience can be parlayed into building a startup.  That should also mean that founders have good connections to potential buyers and have heard the pain points and the needs of target customers.

Yes, this article can even be useful thinking about yourself and what you (or others do) in a social setting.  Just think about how some of these tips by van Wulfen could be leveraged in your group of friends.  I know personally when I try to get friends to get together, it’s much like herding cats.  Taking some of these tips such as Tip 3 Facilitating or even Do Things Fast (Tip 9) can be critical so that decisions are made and the group moves forward.

Anyways, you should give van Wulfen’s article a read.  What are your thoughts about the being effective in innovation?  Or how have you been an effective INNOVATOR?

One of the biggest, greatest lessons I’ve learned while doing a startup is one that isn’t shocking.  In fact, before I say it I’m going to go ahead and say it’s going to sound stupid.  You’re sometimes told this in consulting projects, read it in some books, but it’s just the very experience of doing a startup and smack-your-face-duh moment when you really appreciate this. So here goes… when you’re offering any product or service, you have to make a TANGIBLE value proposition.  People and companies largely respond to one thing: net profit.  This means there are two big levers – raise my revenue or lower my costs. 
Yeah… sounds simple and stupid, right?  But if you were me, you may think that there may be a grand idea you have that can save time or can “boost performance” or something like that.  Rarely do people really understand in these terms.  You’ll find those who can understand that building a stronger athlete with ancillary benefits like accountability and the like, but most people do NOT get these concepts.  What do they really understand?  Budget. 
I can tout how in 60 days, I saw personally how I increased my strength by 4.86% (read the post here), or how a high school football team’s top 10 players saw 9.13% gains in the Barbell Bench Press and 5.13% gains in their Barbell Power Cleans, but sometimes, it doesn’t quite click yet. 
Instead, listening to some coaches, especially college coaches, they immediately latch onto the opportunity to save money via summer workout programs.  That is, today, colleges spend roughly $20 per book that is sent out to players over the summer with their summer workout plans.  What ends up happening oftentimes is players lose their books, too, so the Strength & Conditioning program has to send out a new book.  Not only that, but the book just sends out the workout with no feedback system.
So the value prop here for Body Boss, for example, is the ability for coaches to use Body Boss to share summer workout programs with one system at a cost lower than printing and shipping books at $20 per book.  For college football teams, for example, if you produce books for 105 players (NCAA Div. 1 squad size limit), that’s a good $2,100.  Further, Body Boss can be the way that players can get feedback, while also accessing a workout program without the fear of losing the “book”. 
Thinking about consulting, this should be a no-brainer.  How often or easy is it to build a business case or even sell a project if you’re just selling soft benefits? 
So in the end, before you get all enamored about your idea and try to build marketing messages set on value props not based on values, don’t.  If you’re touting saving time, perhaps it’d be easier for your customer to not think of the time aspect as much as the value of that time.  What are the opportunity costs you’re experiencing by doing what you do now?  If you used product XYZ, you’ll save time so you can DO that opportunity cost. 
Anyways, so yeah, sometimes you can get enamored on what makes your product so great or why a project would be nice, but if you lose yourself in the wrong value, your message just falls on disinterested ears.

– SC Ninja out

John Wooden, legendary UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period including seven in a row once, said one of the most resounding things I’ve ever heard:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

I think I’ve heard a variation of this from somewhere that goes on, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, you must have time to do it a second time.”

I looked up local entrepreneur-turned Atlanta hero, celebrity, and savior (for startups and entrepreneurs, at least) David Cummings on his blog for any tidbits of sage advice.  I searched for “features” and found a few, and really appreciated one particular post — “Consider Future Manual Labor When Adding New Features“.

In essence, Cummings talked about realizing the ramifications of building new features, especially when considering the manual labor downstream.  Pushing for features to go out the door quickly for testing is part and parcel to the Lean Startup process, but there must also be a careful consideration about the effects downstream as well.

As we build Body Boss, we’ve come to realize there were a few features that were just wholly cumbersome to use, especially speaking with coaches.  Each time we considered new features, or even existing ones, we have to take a careful look at whether or not we’re really addressing the problem in addition to if we’re just putting a bandaid.  Because in the end, our customer-partners will tell us if they don’t like the new bandaid vis-a-vis complaints or low adoption.

However, if our customer-partners continue to clamor for the better, simpler design or robust feature, it signals that it’s not that the feature is poor, it’s that the implementation is poor.  Much like Cummings blogged about, as we build out features (you, too), careful consideration should be done to understand whether or not the actual implementation is just a bandaid or if it goes to actually building a better feature, and in these days especially, is the feature SIMPLE???  Simple not just for the users, but also for you the Company — the builders.  Simplification leads to higher adoption.

So going back to Coach Wooden, if you don’t build your features and your product right the first time (and you’ll know it), when will you have time?  If you hear your customers clamoring for it, but they aren’t using it, chances are, you haven’t implemented it the right way.  Look at it from your customers’ perspectives, and if you start struggling with the feature, chances are, too, that your customers have the same hang-ups.  Let’s just hope that when opportunity comes knocking that you have the chance to still fix it the right way; else, your customers may just look for someone else that IS willing to do it the right way.

What are your thoughts on building out a product or a new feature?  Have you had trouble where you’ve built features, and haven’t seen it adopted despite customers wanting it?  If so, how, and how did you remedy it?

Today, I went to Lee’s Bakery for bánh mì sandwiches for lunch.  It was crazy good.  You should go get yourself the bbq pork bánh mì   They also have chicken and other meats if that’s your deal.  

Lee's Bakery

I was standing in line waiting to pay, and I was just watching the cashier ring people up, and watching the servers take orders scribbling on their little pads, frantically going back and forth between the tables and the kitchen.  I was thinking about how technology has invaded so many parts of our lives where in so many other shops, you see business starting to adopt tablet-oriented point-of-sale (POS) systems.  In all the English as a Secondary Language businesses (I’m dubbing them “E2L”), why is the rate of adoption so much lower compared to their English-dominant counterparts?

Some general thoughts:

  • POS systems such as those mobilized by Square or Stripe and apps like Shopkeep help small businesses by eliminating much of the hassles of the earlier cash registers including credit card processing, financial/ bank integration, transaction histories (taxes), etc.
  • Many of the apps today that we see are catered to “us” — English-dominant businesses.  However, business is a common language. Profits and losses are largely the same.  The same pains of payment processing, training, etc. are ubiquitous business pains no matter the language.  So you would figure (I do anyways) that you could potentially port over some of the great concepts that technology brings to small business from English-dominant businesses to E2Ls.
  • Why aren’t E2Ls adopting?  I liken this to how prevalent technology, apps, etc. are exploding here in the U.S., but not in some of the smaller countries.  I have a friend who is porting successful business ideas from America and adapting to his native country with great effect.  Perhaps what’s happening is that in the end, these E2Ls don’t have the apps catered to them like “we” do — English-dominant speakers.
  • One of the most prevalent gaps between any two people is communication.  If I think about businesses and the POS system apps today, they’re all in English.  Step into some of the E2Ls on Buford Highway, for example, servers, bus boys, owners… they don’t speak English.  If they’re to adopt a technology, they’re not going to adopt something in a different language.
  • So perhaps one of the keys and ways to expand and empower these E2Ls is supporting them with multiple language packs.  Couple these new apps with easy to use interfaces, and perhaps even some language support with someone like TripLingo, and you could, potentially, have a new POS that breaks barriers.
  • E2Ls are supported like mafias in that in these mini-pockets of varying cultures, word-of-mouth is that much more profound.  I’m Chinese, if you didn’t already know.  I know that my parents love to hire Chinese contractors.  My Greek friends love to help and buy from Greek vendors.  My friend’s Jamaican parents love to support the local Jamaican contingent.  So in the end, perhaps if you build something that really caters to a culture, a language, that because E2L owners support each other that they could be more apt to also adopt the technology.
I don’t know these E2Ls very well, and these thoughts are largely off the cuff.  However, I do believe there’s some real opportunities here to fill the void that is leaving behind the rest of the countries around the world, and in many ways, the mini-countries in our very backyards.  Similar to speeches, you have to know your audience and adapt your speech to the listeners.  In the case of E2Ls, no one is really speaking their technology language.  My grandparents didn’t grow up with a lot of technology, but by setting up their new laptops with simple things like language packs and streamlining the computers, they can easily call me on Skype at 2AM.  

Like I said, I’m not a pro at this.  It’s just a casual observation that I’d love to hear some feedback on.  The same hurdles for new tech adoption remain, but currently apps won’t help these E2Ls adopt at all.  Of course, not everything needs another layer of technology and there is the issue of just adding another complexity to selling — not just new tech, but potentially a language/ cultural barrier, too.

So what are your thoughts?  How would you market a POS system or even new technology to these E2Ls?
Since I left business school at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School for my MBA, I’ve taken on the scary move of working full-time on the startup I co-founded with friends, Body Boss Fitness.  In a couple months of full-time startup-ship without the funds to really pay me (or anyone) a salary yet, I got all scared, and dipped my feet back into consulting part-time.  It’s been a few months doing this to put some money in my pocket, and I’ve taken on now two different consulting projects.  All the while, I also push Body Boss including traveling for sales and marketing and writing up blog posts like I just did here at Starbucks in Brookhaven on a Sunday.

I do enjoy supply chain consulting for sure… but I’m going to dip back out of consulting and give Body Boss my undivided attention for a long while.  If I say it out loud and put it on a blog post, I’ll have to stick to my word, right?  Well, all this experience has also brought out this strange affinity for writing my thoughts, and it’s about time that I write another article for my SC Ninja Skills blog

Reflecting on my previous life as a consultant (okay, some of my current, too) and my passion in weight lifting, I’ve seen a couple important take-aways that have been highly leverageable in both worlds.
  • Change is hard.  When you go to a gym for a few years consistently weekly, you see those who come and go, and those who stay true.  It’s clear those who are “newbs”.  They come in, sometimes work half-heartedly, and then either stick around and wonder they’re not seeing the gains they want or they just disappear as quickly as they arrived.  In consulting, similarly, companies who are looking to change make a difficult decision to embark on change.  However, it’s so easy for companies to lose sight of the goal and milestones to bring about sustainable change.
  • Even if you’re seasoned in the gym, you need to change to keep improving.  Companies who don’t embrace the necessity to change as the world evolves are likely to see growth become stagnant, and is most often the case, fade away.  It’s so easy for companies to keep going about their business managing the day-to-day without thinking larger and more strategically.  However, without change, it’s even easier to then let competition come in and take everything away (think Blackberry, Kodak, etc.).  In the gym, if you’re doing the same routine over and over again, your body adjusts and you no longer see gains in your strength.  It only takes six weeks before your body adapts.
  • Bringing an outside perspective can help.  As a consultant, this is almost the very reason we exist.  Similar to the point above, it’s so easy for companies to be complacent and continue to operate just as they have over the last 40 years.  However, bringing in fresh eyes from consultants, an outside hire, or otherwise, can easily give perspective from potentially competition, other industries, etc. In the gym, bringing a friend who is knowledgeable about working out can easily bring new routines, or even help spot when you’ve actually got poor form.
  • Establishing goals helps you achieve greater.  One of the first things you do as a trainer with a client is to run an assessment.  This includes understanding a baseline or where a client is, and where the client wants to go (i.e. lose weight, add 25 lbs to her squat, drop your 40 time by a half-second). Without knowing where you want to go, it’s hard to really push yourself and make it timely.  In the consulting world, if you don’t establish a baseline of “current state” and plan for a “future state” (Shangri-la), how do you know what to do, who to employ, how your customers will react (if any)?
  • Post-workout is just as important as in-workout.  In working out, it’s important to take care of your body after a workout.  That may include a post-workout protein shake to ensure you have the nutrients for recovery, or just daily nutrition in meals.  If you aren’t eating right and stretching and the like, it’s hard to sustain any gains you may have from a workout.  In consulting, implementing post-transformation catches is key to sustaining the change.  Tracking efforts via metrics is one way of ensuring change has sustainability; while establishing a culture embracing change is another sure-fire way of keeping the momentum going.
So what do you think about the parallels in working out and in consulting or even business in general?  How would you use the lessons learned in the weight room in consulting, or vice versa?

Okay, so I’m going to be one of the first to admit that I didn’t always believe in tracking workouts.  Thought it was just a pain in the rear, and a waste of time in the gym.  I tracked with a notebook back in the day in undergrad at GT, and found it not-so-useful.  I would also have to translate what I wrote in the notebook into Excel – big pain.  Too much work to track trends. 


After Tech, I was a management consultant specializing in supply chain management. I actually developed reports, dashboards, and metrics for several Fortune 500 companies, and it was then that I learned how successful companies always had their fingers on the pulse of the business.  They knew the state of the business from Execs on down to Analysts through structured, actionable reporting.  The companies that were less-than well-managed had poor reporting capabilities.  It dawned on me that with successful companies WHAT GETS MEASURED, GETS IMPROVED.  Enter a new world for myself and the Body Boss team… porting over intelligence though analytics to strength and conditioning.

In my earlier post about how we started, I mentioned how we built Body Boss with sleek and sexy design on top of statistics and regression modeling.  With the growth of technology especially in the mobile space, we could now remove the painful, time-consuming notebooks from the Stone Ages into the new digital era.  And the results are AMAZING. 

Where many coaches have created their own spreadsheets with percentage calculations, we’ve designed an application that does all the calculations for them. We’ve designed a tool that automatically takes what Coaches currently do, but makes everything that much simpler and that much easier to read while also engaging and MOTIVATING the Players.  Players have to execute afterall, right?

We’re updating our current Player Profiles soon with a new Stats page that is going to change the game – see the design below.  Now, we’re going to be able to provide Coaches and Players a quick and easy-to-read Stats page showing the progress of players.  No more messing around in spreadsheets.  To do this today for most coaches, this would take AT LEAST 2-5 minutes PER player.  To gather all the workout data, keystroke those numbers into Excel, and create charts to track trends?  If you’re a coach with 10, 20, 100 players… that’s a lot of time.  No longer is the game just working out harder, but working out SMARTER. 

We’re still implementing the new Stats page, but I built it roughly in Excel, and the below is what I saw.  So this tells me several things.  1) I’m a beast, and I’m getting stronger. I’m creeping up to 30 years old and still after some injuries, I can achieve greater. 2) Building this in Excel was a PAIN.  I can’t wait when this is automated with Body Boss. 3) As much as I love Excel from consulting days, it’s ugly. 4) Tracking workouts WORKS.  Intelligence is knowing where you are now, and challenging towards a goal.  That’s what Body Boss does.  It challenges you to NEVER settle… to always strive for greatness.

Testing and original layout of the proposed Stats page in Excel — a bit ugly, a whole lot of work

The new design of the Player Profile and new Stats page — much sleeker than Excel and much easier, automated



So for Coaches, Trainers, Players everywhere… we hear you, and we’re here for you.  We’re going to change the Strength and Conditioning game to help you focus on strategy and player development, not spreadsheets and number-crunching.  We’ll do that for you.  Customize your workouts how you want (percentages and all), and we’ll help you with the analytics.

– Daryl “D-Train” Lu

You can email me at daryl@bodybossfitness.com or message me on Twitter @TheDLu

It occurs to me that Body Boss has a great story.  A great story of why we’re here today with Body Boss trying to disrupt the “industry” of Team Strength and Conditioning.  
Darren Pottinger really started us on this path back in 2010/ 2011 of bringing more intelligence to working out – bringing regression and statistical modeling/ forecasting to training with a simple Excel model… yet can be built better and stronger.  Being the zealous and extraordinarily gifted problem-solver and programmer, Don Pottinger joined in on the fun looking to build the spreadsheet into something greater – an app for the masses.  
For several months, the brothers Pottinger iterated, and it was in the fall of 2011 when Andrew Reifman joined the team to bring his black magic of Design Creativity to the fold.  Andrew and Don were long-lost friends from Dunwoody High School.  After learning Andrew had built award-winning sites while working at various design agencies, Don asked Andrew to join.  Definitely loved his personal website.  I mean, how do I get little power bars like the X-Men cards I used to collect???  This Andrew guy is LEGIT.
I’m not sure when I really joined because I was consulting and always traveling.  Tell you what – if you can travel while trying to do your own startup, props to you because I don’t recall when I was adding value on a consistent basis.  SO enter me, Daryl sometime in that glorious assembly of the Dream Team.  Having played soccer at Tech with Don, we had become best buds for a while.  I bring to the field the execution and drive as well as some patience for the business administration – makes sense since I was entering Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in the accelerated One-Year Full-Time program May 2012.
Gifted with an extraordinarily talented team who also lived and breathed personal fitness, we entered Startup Riot as one out of 30 startups competing in a pitch-off of sorts in Atlanta in February 2012.  Many to this day will never forget our presentation where Darren stripped off his shirt to the hoots and hollers and affection of women… and men.  We were voted into the Top 5, and at the time, we were aiming to be a B2C company.  We were going to build an app based on the principles of intelligent personal fitness leveraging the growth of mobile and technology.  Though, we didn’t even have a product to show.  All we had was a dream.
After meeting with Georgia Tech and re-evaluating our strategy, we decided to shift to the B2B market – focusing our efforts on helping improve the feedback loop between Coaches and Players in sports teams and organizations.  As we reflect on our own past experiences, workouts were disseminated from Coaches to Players via sheets of paper and rarely, if ever, were those workout results ever returned to the Coaches. Even rarer was when the Coaches would take those sheets of workout results and plug them into something like Excel spreadsheets.  Tracking pieces of paper, writing it all down, transcribing the number into Excel… that’s about a 2-3 minute process for a single player.  If you’re a Coach of a team with 50 players, you can do the math and that’s a lot of wasted time.  Add to that other competitors’ focus on just the Coach… that’s not how TEAM sports are played.  We wanted to create a tool that engaged everyone on the team from the Coaches, Trainers, and the Players.  Afterall, Players are the ones who have the execute come game time.  That’s when Body Boss was really born.  
We built towards a vision without actually talking to too many other players or Coaches, but in August, we met with the Athletic Director of Centennial High School in Roswell, GA where we presented the initial design and vision of Body Boss.  Excited for what we were working on and seeing an immediate value, he invited us back after a few enhancements.  In December, we really locked in with the Head Football Coach and Head Baseball Coach at Centennial High School to trial Body Boss with their players starting January.  Everything since then has been… shall we say, history.  
So here we are, a bunch of Georgia Tech nerds + a talented Graphics Designer from University of Georgia.  Our home is Atlanta, GA, and our dreams lay in the stars.  Our backgrounds in soccer, weight training, certified personal fitness training, expertise in data and analytics, technical programming and design know-how, some great business sense, and a whole lotta drive… we’re aiming to change the world.  We’re not just a team… we’re a family looking out for one another.  We’re proud of the family and friends we’ve earned over the years, and we will make you all proud.  We’re here to disrupt the team strength and conditioning space with Body Boss.  Be excited.  Visit us at BodyBossFitness.com. Follow us.  @BodyBossFitness