Ameet Shah of Wodify on the Entrepreneurial Journey

Mike (00:02):

It’s Two-Brain Radio. Today, Chris Cooper is on the mic to chat with Ameet Shah of Wodify. Find out how Ameet helped revolutionize the online crab business grew as an entrepreneur and then created a platform that now serves more than 5,000 gyms around the world. Now here’s Coop.

Chris (00:19):

All right, so Ameet Shah, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.

Ameet (00:22):

Hi there. Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

Chris (00:25):

We’re super pumped to have you here, man. And honestly, I think this interview has been maybe a decade coming. The first time we met was at a CrossFit regional event, it was new England regional or something at Reebok.

Ameet (00:37):

  1. Yeah. Yep.

Chris (00:39):

And, you had a booth right across from ours. I was with 3, 2, 1, Go Project at the time. And you were selling Wodify. And I was saying, how is this going to work? You know, people are paying other software $20 a month and Wodify is completely different. And I wanted to ask you then, and this is my chance to ask you now.

Ameet (00:57):


Chris (00:58):

Why don’t we start with how you got into entrepreneurship?

Ameet (01:01):

Sure. Well, let’s see. I grew up in a little farm town, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, near Hershey, Pennsylvania. I grew up with traditional Indian parents. My mother put me to bed every night and said, Ameet, become a doctor engineer, lawyer, go work for a big company. They’ll pay for your MBA and save money in your 401k and your life is perfect. And so those were my marching orders. And I honestly followed that. I went to Penn state, got a degree in engineering science, and I went to go work for general motors and just as she predicted, they paid for my MBA. I was in the university of Rochester and then one day about two years into my career. I just, it just didn’t feel like me, you know, I was good at school, but I appreciated working with people and solving problems, I think more than the academic part.

Ameet (01:49):

And I, you know, I got to a point where General Motors was a great company, but you know, in two short years I learned so much. And then my learning and growth, it just sort of stifled and it didn’t feel like I was moving fast enough. You know, it was early in my career. And so, I just stopped one day. I quit at all. I quit my MBA program and I quit work and I moved to south Florida with no plan. As luck would have it, I got into E R P enterprise resource planning, consulting, so plain speak. I would implement big business systems for fairly large companies, usually half a billion or multi-billion dollar companies. And so I loved it. had manufacturing experience in high school. I worked at M&M Mars.

Ameet (02:34):

I actually started there as a janitor, but I got opportunities to work on the line and I used to dump cocoa beans and I even wrote standard operating procedures. And so I had a lot of experience between general motors and MM Mars and manufacturing. And so, and I’m a nerd at heart. I love technology. And so the combination of the two was just perfect for me. And so I really loved consulting, cuz it felt like me, I was growing and learning. I would go work many different companies and see how they would work and learn from that. I also got to expand outta manufacturing, into distribution, procurement, customer service, all the way into finance. And I learned my debit credit debits and credits in the field, so to speak. And so after my consulting period, I was kind of an independent one man band.

Ameet (03:20):

I lived in Denver, Colorado. I was moving back to the east coast and a childhood friend, he had a retail crab business in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And he said, my competitors, I know, sounds a little crazy, but my competitors are selling their crabs online and you’re a computer guy. Why don’t you help me, stand up this e-commerce sales channel. And I thought, OK, that sounds like fun. We got started and we stood up, I love I know it sounds funny, but, it was a really fun year. We, we got into food and wine magazine, believe it or not with the little press release and having food and wine magazine,approve our crabs was kinda like having, Oprah say you should like Maryland blue crabs and oh, by the way, you should get ’em from, I love

Ameet (04:13):

So yeah, we were in the 12 gift giving guide and the business just sort of blew up. What allowed us to service our customers really well and scale cause we had to scale overnight was I think a lot of my background in business process, engineering and technology. So, you know, this is 2006 and it sounds funny, but we were like legitimately the highest tech or the, the high tech crab business in the country. you know, if you go to Starbucks and you order online or with your app spits out a little printed label for the barista, so they know how to make your coffee, your cappuccino, the same concept. So you went online and you ordered crabs. We went to one inventory system that we built in house. So we knew exactly how many crabs we had. And what sizes and track inventory, a little printer, spit out a label, let’s call it a crab barista.

Ameet (05:03):

I think I just made that term up, told ’em exactly how to make their crabs so we could have a consistent experience. And one of the other things we did was, you know, we looked at, you know, I always looked at technology as a differentiator and so one of our other differentiators was simply around scheduling the crab. So in those days when you order crabs from our competitors, you had to read the fine print and know if it was a holiday or if it was a bank holiday and to try and figure out when the crabs are gonna come well, it’s a lot of money you’re spending and you’re probably gonna have 20-30 of your friends come over and probably get a keg of beer and hang out and make a big day out. It’s really critical that, you know, when the crabs are arriving.

Ameet (05:40):

So we made, a very small, I guess, shift in the industry and we led with the date. We were like, well, when are you trying to have a special occasion? OK, here’s we have in inventory. Here’s how you would ship them to get it there in time. And here’s what time you can expect it as well. And so it sounds simple, but in 2006, that was a huge differentiator in the end. you know, after a year I worked for no salary, or without salary, you know, the business couldn’t support it in the beginning. And then I ended up walking away from the business. you know, we did it on a handshake. We were friends and in the end we just necessarily couldn’t see eye to eye on the contracting. And so, we stepped away, but you know, no regrets, it gave me so much confidence then to start future businesses.

Ameet (06:23):

So, you know, I started a couple other businesses and the next thing I did was I, I kinda went back to my bread and butter and I started a company called conigen. So back to my E P consulting days, implementing CRM systems, the difference now is I created a brand. I hired employees and contractors, and had to actually go do outbound sales, had a great time doing it, honestly had some really big clients, some fun clients and some exciting projects. But if I’m honest with myself, it was lacking the creativity that I was looking for, you know, I was implementing other people’s software and really, I wanted to create my own software. And, yeah, so fast forward I then started Wodify and I ran Conigent and Wodify in parallel for about five years until Wodify you know, kind of started out as a side hustle until it became like two hustles. And I decided, even though I was doing well with Conigent and it was throwing up significant cash, my passion wasn’t there, my passion was really in Wodify, so I shut down that business gracefully. And, yeah, and here we are 10 years later with Wodify.

Chris (07:28):

So with the crab business, you kind of started with the end in mind and worked backward and built your process that way. Did you take that same strategy with Wodify and what was kind of the endpoint that you were working toward?

Ameet (07:42):

Well, as you know, I, so let let’s step back. I started Wodify as just a performance tracking tool. So today, you know, today we’ll help you run, manage, grow your business. Right. But we started with performance tracking. And what I was doing was two things. One I just wanted to see, cause over the years I had number of ideas and then I always come up with excuses like, oh, I’m not smart enough. I don’t have the technical skills to do it. It’s not the right time. It’s too risky. And then I’d watch other people implement my ideas. And so I kind of got frustrated with my own excuses. And so the one thing I wanted do is I just wanted to eliminate the excuse and just go build something and see if people would use it.

Ameet (08:21):

And then the second thing I was doing was solving a problem for myself. So I started CrossFit in 2011, absolutely fell in love with it. And, I remember my gym owner at CrossFit aspire in Cherry hill, New Jersey said, I mean, if you wanna improve your performance, you gotta track your performance. And I subscribed with that philosophy. I got introduced to fitness late in my, career let’s call it. And I was 19. I traded services with a childhood friend. he was failing calculus and I couldn’t, you know, bench an empty barbell 10 times. So we traded services and he got me, he built my confidence with fitness. And then in my twenties, I lifted and dieted like a bodybuilder. And what kept me honest was a simple diary, nothing fancy. It was pencil in a notebook.

Ameet (09:07):

And I tracked my performance, my, intake, my sleep, water, et cetera. So when they told me to track the performance, I subscribed that philosophy. I knew that it kept me accountable. And so, I remember they pointed to an empty rusty filing cabinet and said, Hey, there was some papers in there. And they had some of the named WODs in there. And then some blank spaces. I lasted two or three days. And at the end of a workout, like sitting there writing these verbose workouts and then trying to track performance was too much. And so I noticed that gym owners were, super comfortable digitizing their workouts, right. So they would go into WordPress and digitize their workout. And I thought, you know, if I could get them to just put that in my system now a little bit more effort, cause I gotta do it in a structured way.

Ameet (09:52):

I could push the workout to the WordPress site and then I could push the workout to a screen in the gym and then allow another screen for athletes to come in, sign in and track their performance. And so the problem I was solving was one and I wanted to track my own performance and know if I was winning and I wanted able to go into workout and have a goal. So I’m gonna shave 10 seconds, or I’m gonna add 10 reps. Right. And then the second thing I wanted to do is I used to go to the 6:00 AM class. So I would compete with the folks in my 6:00 AM class. But throughout the day, everyone in the gym is doing the exact same workout. And usually those results were erased off the whiteboard the next morning. Maybe if I didn’t come in for two days, then I wouldn’t see.

Ameet (10:30):

So I never knew how I stood, how my score stood with the rest of the gym. And so that’s how we got started. I hired an engineer, you know, I started CrossFiting in, let’s see, August of 2011. did some mockups in December, shared those mockups and got feedback, found a platform, hired engineer. And we started coding in, April, I believe. And three weeks later we had our kiosk experience, started at CrossFit aspire. And I’ll never forget. First time I helped, an athlete enter his performance. He entered it. I think it was a back squat we were doing and a little badge showed up. And he said, what is that? And hover over it, he hovered over it and said, oh my God, how did it know I had a 20 pound PR?

Ameet (11:16):

And the look in his face was just magical. And, I get a chill just thinking about it. Like it really inspired me. And I thought, OK, this was fun. Like, you know, I was doing it just to see if I could use my brain in a sort of creative way and get a positive user experience. So we did that and it was a lot of fun. I then went to a second gym and launched it there. We added a mobile app and we got great feedback there. And honestly, that’s what gave us the feedback or the confidence rather to go to Northeast regionals in 2012 at Reebok, where I met you and really showcased, Wodify for the first time.

Chris (11:51):

So just because not everybody was there, at the time nobody was using screens in their gyms, everybody was on a whiteboard and it was almost counter to the dogma to introduce this technology. How did you bridge that gap for people?

Ameet (12:05):

You know, so I think, well, if I go back again to those European days, right, I spend most of my career digitally transforming, a lot of paper-based manufacturing, distribution companies. And the thing that I realized was you had to commit to that digital environment. You couldn’t have one foot in and one foot out. And in order to transform a company from like a paper based system where maybe it was a five part form that literally crossed people’s desks. So they knew what to do and to move them to a digital environment, it had to be simple. It had to drive business value and it actually had to drive user value. Like the user had to be inspired and motivated to put the effort in. And the kiosk, I needed to get gym owners to commit to a digital experience and the problem we were solving.

Ameet (12:56):

So the business value was member retention. And the user was incentivized to enter their performance in an easy format, why the gymwas doing the hard part, creating the workout. That’s the robust part, the gym owner. We kept it really simple. How much weight did you move today? How fast did you do that? Right. And so they’re incentivized to enter that little piece of information data, because it’s gonna help ’em with their next workout. And so, super committed to digitizing the experience. And so on that note, we, you know, we kind of threw scale out the window in the early days and said, we need to drive quality in an adoption. And so we had a trailer with a mobile kiosk in it, and we would show up to gyms that wanted to use performance tracking. We would, you know, I showed up with tools and we would literally install the kiosk.

Ameet (13:41):

We would train the gym owner, train the coaches, and then we would observe, and we see some funny things. So as an example, I’ll never forget. I was sitting in, I just trained a coach on, on Wodify and how to use our performance tracking system. And then I went to the next class and he introduced, you know, everybody in the class said, oh, and there’s these guys from Wodify they had this screen up on this, over here. And, yeah, I don’t know some computer stuff, and I’m just gonna use the whiteboard <laugh>. So we’re like, OK, that’s not exactly how we trained you. And so we had to make some adjustments, let me think. So we did like three things. So one of the things we did and, you know, I, again, digitally transforming gyms where there was no techno, I mean, I remember wwe went into these gyms and they’re like, you don’t understand CrossFit, like it’s about chalk and grit and the heat’s not on.

Ameet (14:30):

And the bathroom’s out there behind the building and a tree. Right. And so coming in like the EV nerds with our tech, right, it was, we were met with some opposition. So we did a few bold things. One moving forward, we had gym owners literally sign a contract that said we’re committing to a digital environment and we would no longer write workouts nor results in a whiteboard. The second thing we did is we said, in order for us to give you credentials for Wodifyi you have to show us that you’ve put a kiosk in place, and it’s on the gym floor, not in, say the locker room. And, now why do we do that? If you think back 10 years ago, some of these gyms didn’t have high speed internet, let alone a guest wifi, and the athletes didn’t necessarily have a smartphone.

Ameet (15:24):

So the kiosk was a critical piece of it. And then the final thing we did, and we learned this the hard way too, is we had to get gym owners to sign off, saying that they wouldn’t charge, some gym owners were actually charging an additional fee to use Wodify as a performance tracking system. And we thought, well, if we’re trying to digitally transform the entire gym, we need to eliminate that friction. And so we had to get gym owners to sign off, saying they wouldn’t charge explicitly for Wodify and had to be all inclusive. So pretty bold if you think about it, right, we’re going into gyms wwith screens and technology where it’s kind of not welcome. And then we’re also telling like, oh, by the way, this is how you gotta do it. but it worked, you know, we found a number of, sort of leading edge gyms that saw the problem we were solving for them, which is actually member retention. And, I, yeah, they were willing to give it a shot. And we saw successful gyms transforming, to a digital environment. So as an example, at the end of a workout, instead of athletes saying, oh man, I really killed that. They would say, I shaved 10 seconds or I added 30 pounds. And it really made it a big difference.

Chris (16:31):

That is really interesting. And I’m sure that, you know, you overcame a lot of, I don’t know about opposition, but curiosity in the early days, one of the ways that you guys showed that you were part of the CrossFit community early on was to sponsor a grid league team. And I think that people who were kind of outside of that were interested in it at the time, but really didn’t know what was going on there. So what was going on there?

Ameet (16:55):

<laugh> the grid league. OK. Probably not one of my finer moments. Oh. So grid league was about, I think like three years into our history. And, if I’m honest to myself, I think, you know, we had experienced exponential growth and it was so exciting. And, to be fair, I think if I’m honest to myself, I became a little over confident, in our success. And so I thought, oh, this software thing I got this nailed. And so when I was approached with the grid league, I thought, well, this is cool. It’s super complementary. So I thought it’d be exciting to be part of the CrossFit community in a different way. I thought it’d also be exciting for our team. And so when we were approached about it, we looked at the investment and we were told it’s gonna cost you four or $500,000 the first year.

Ameet (17:44):

And then you should anticipate breaking even the second year. And so I kind of run through the math and I had did. I said, I think it’s gonna cost $750,000 that first year. It’s the way I look at investments is I said to myself, well, if we invest this money and I lose it, will I be happy? No <laugh> but will, our employees still be gainfully employed? Yes. will I be able to provide for my family? Yes. Will my kids go to college? Yes. OK. Let’s do this. And so you, fast forward, we were one of the first teams to, or one of the first companies to acquire a team. We were the Philadelphia founders and 11 months later, we had burnt through literally $750,000 in cash, had nothing to show for it. And I didn’t see profit in the near future.

Ameet (18:28):

And so we were one of the first teams to exit the grid league. Today we have one piece of memorabilia and it is, our mascot, there’s six foot mascot and his name is thunder guns. And he sits in our Philadelphia office. And then next to thunder guns, is a plaque. You know, one of the things I say is we don’t win or lose, we win or learn. And there’s a huge lesson to be learned there. And, we sort of articulate the story and the lesson learned. And I suppose a lesson learned with that is to, at least for me, is to stay in my lane. You know, like I’m a software guy, I’m a business process guy. I know how to implement technology to drive revenue, reduce costs, increase client engagement. That’s what I do. I don’t know anything about owning a sports team and I really shouldn’t have invested in it.

Chris (19:14):

Well, it’s a good lesson to learn, but you also gave me a really easy segue into, something else I wanted to ask you about. And that’s your approach to funding the building of your software? I mean, do you bootstrap everything you did it startup, do you still do it, you know, do you get private equity investment? Like how do you approach it?

Ameet (19:34):

Yeah. You know, we were, I mean, I started my company Conigent bootstrap, I mean, literally outta my basement. And I remember I hired my first employee and I thought we would just work outta my basement. That lasted like three days and ended up getting an office. So like the bootstrap environment is something I’m quite comfortable with. We did bootstrap Wodify and today we’re still self-funded. So it, and no, we don’t have any private equity investors. And so, I own the company outright. We’re implementing an ESOP this year. So, you know, all the employees in our company will be shareholders. I can tell you that. Well, one thing that I say is without profit, there is no passion. And so it absolutely forces us to think, how do we use our resources in a cost effective way, you know, in this space, it’s a challenge, like, you know, consumers, gym owners, they use software on a daily basis and they have expectations that are that of like Google or Facebook, right.

Ameet (20:32):

the challenge you have in our space is, you know, our price point for the features we offer, ti’s I would say on an objective scale outside of health and wellness, it’s tough. It’s a small price point. And so to build all of these different features with all that quality is, is quite a challenge. So the name of the game for us, because we’re, self-funded is how do we build the highest quality product at the lowest cost so that we can drive profitability and further invest into the ecosystem and our product.

Chris (21:07):

  1. So part of that is gonna be company culture, but part of that is also how you build, and I, I have a question about how you build first, before we get into culture, because I know that’s a big passion of yours. When I visited a competitor of yours several years ago, one of the first things that they wanted to show me was the size of their customer support team. And they had this, you know, small little call center with like 50 people working full time. And, you know, their claim to fame was like, if our software breaks, you just call us and we’ll spend two hours on the phone with you every single day, if you want to. And what immediately hit me was like, as a gym owner, I do not have two hours a day spend with my software. So you’re talking about like, you’re bootstrapping it. And you’re feature to value is really, really good. How do you do that? in a quality way that doesn’t require a massive support team?

Ameet (22:03):

Well, you know, I can tell you, we service over 5,000 customers today and our customer success team is somewhere between eight and nine deep. And we didn’t even call customer support. We call it customer success, our customer success and account management. It’s a huge differentiator for us. And, if you look at the way we built that team, it is extremely thoughtful and deliberate. It is very heavily process driven. Again, my background is implementing technology and process. And so it’s that commitment to process and making sure that we’ve got a repeatable process that keeps us efficient and lean and mean. And the other thing that we do is we invest a lot of time and energy and continuous education into our CS team. And we take our time onboarding our CS team.

Ameet (22:58):

So, you know, we’ve got sort of some pillars of how we think about and approach customer success. One of ’em we call it, teach gym owners how to fish. So we, a few years ago, we just kind of did an internal audit of like, how are we servicing our customers? And our customer success team is so passionate about servicing the customers. They were actually going too far. They were, you know, so someone would ask a question and our team would say, yep, I set it all up for you. You’re good to go. And so what ends up happening is the education piece is missing. And so now we really go out of our way, not to be difficult, but to train and educate our gym owner. So we want them to be come self-sufficient. So that, to your point, Chris, they don’t have to spend two hours with us. and so it’s kinda like having the courage to go, I’m not gonna do this for you, I’m gonna show you video on how to do it. And if you have more questions, I’m happy to spend more time with you. I’ll get on a screen, share with you, but I really wanna teach you how to control your own destiny with our software.

Chris (23:52):

I think that’s super important. And I can remember, you know, my own general manager at my gym, literally spending two to three hours a week on the phone with this other company when she should have been, could have been doing other things, right.

Ameet (24:03):

Like engaging with his clients and coaches. Yeah. Yep. Yeah.

Chris (24:07):

So, I mean, you mentioned that customer education is a big part of what you do, but I know from experience that culture is really, you know, a cornerstone of the business. And so maybe we can talk about why that is and how you guys approach culture at Wodify.

Ameet (24:21):

Yeah. You know, in the early days I was really driven to create a product and that’s what we did. You know, I was shoulder shoulder with our engineering team building a product, and that’s probably three years into it. And then for the past, I’ll call it six or seven years. I’ve been trying to figure out how do we transform from building a product, building a company. And I would tell you, it’s an order of magnitude harder to build a company than it’s a product. And, you know, in 2018 I was coming to work and I just, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I wasn’t enjoying the work that I was the company I created, frankly. And, I looked for help and that help came in the form of Zappos. So, I dunno if you’re familiar with Zappos, but in the nineties, they were, you know, they’re known for really forward thinking and progressive approach to culture and that culture really being the differentiator and how they service our customers, learned a lot from Zappos, brought them in and helped us, define our culture through purpose and core values.

Ameet (25:21):

But I would tell you that was just really kind of, step one. The other thing that I have realized, there’s a book I read, I’m trying to think of the quote. I think it’s something like, and I’m probably gonna misquote this, but something to the effect of, nobody cares what you think until they know you care and I’ve realized it’s so true and you can’t fake it. Employees know if you’re being genuine or not. And so, a big piece of the growth had to come from me and, I’ve taken a new approach and I’m, you know, I’ve always cared, but sometimes, you know, business is quite demanding. You’re trying to survive through COVID and, you know, sometimes you can get too focused on the business and you forget that we’ve got, people that need to know that you care about their career and about them as human beings.

Ameet (26:18):

And so I’m so fortunate that we have an amazing culture, a great leadership team. They all genuinely care about our team and about one another. And I can share like a little story with you. I love this stuff. So as an example, our BI team recently launched customer reporting and they worked with our customer success team hand in hand, shoulder, shoulder, understand what are the, what are the challenges our owners are having? and then they really did a nice job of training and educating our CS team so that when they launched it, it was a seamless experience that they were empowered to be able to help our gym owners, write customer reports as an example. And our CS team was so grateful, for the efforts from the BI team, like they got ’em a little present and they bought him a bunch of little Ruby’s cubes just to say, thank you. And I can tell you, the BI team is quite proud of little Ruby’s cubes. It’s an example of the kind of culture we’ve created, where people genuinely wanna help each other and ultimately help our gym owners. Cause that’s what we’re passionate about.

Chris (27:17):

And that really shows too. So I wanna share something here that I didn’t share at the time, but you know, in 2020, COVID is going, bananas. Gyms are getting locked down and some payment processors were delaying payments. Most, most gym software platforms were not proactive. a couple of them tried to cover up what was actually happening. Most of them just didn’t notify their customers at all, what was proactive. And I can remember, getting a call from somebody on your team saying, here’s what’s happened. Here’s what we’re doing about it. We wanna make sure our customers know so that they don’t get caught and stuck. Right. And Wodify actually took some heat for that, because, you know, you guys were like admitting there’s something going wrong when most of the others just simply weren’t admitting it or acknowledging it. So, you know, where’s that come from? Is that part of your culture? You know, how did that challenge affect you as a company and as an owner?

Ameet (28:13):

I can tell you and people hear me say all the time. I always tell people I’m not willing to lie to you to steal, to make a buck. It’s just not that important to me. And one of our core values is to operate with integrity. And I can tell you, I’ll just share a little story. Early days of Wodify, probably year one or so, one of our engineers realized, Hey, I found a bug in our software and we’re short paying some of our gym owners. In other words, we’re collecting a hundred dollars for their membership and maybe only paying ’em 97 cause some math errors. And so at the time, you know, bootstrap company, we’re bleeding $40,000 a month. So in order to afford that, I had to go work at Conigent and travel around the country to throw off the cash, to be able to afford it.

Ameet (28:57):

And we did the math and found out that we were, we had short paid $65,000 to gym owners. Now the reality of it is our gym owners probably never would’ve found out honestly. but with zero hesitation myself and the team said, well, we gotta do the right thing. And so we reached out to every one of those customers, sent them a spreadsheet and said, here’s the math on how we short paid you. And we also cut you a check and made it right. And apologize, won’t happen again. And so it’s just a little example of, we’re gonna always do the right thing we just have to. And so when COVID hit, I guess II’ll do a little explanation around how the payment processing thing works. So, you know, we partner with Stripe and we have implemented something we’ve created, something called Wodify payments.

Ameet (29:40):

And so what that allows us to do is create a really seamless experience with our gym owners. They can just come to us and we can help them with everything related to credit card management, as well as our software and running the business now with that comes some risk. So we are now with Wodify payments considered a payment facilitator. And so we own the risk with credit card processing. And I can explain what I mean. So take, an athlete gets charged $200. Let’s call it in, March for gym membership in April, he sees his, he or she sees it hits the credit card statement. It says, Hey, I didn’t receive those services. Or I didn’t get the full value. And they do, what’s called a chargeback. Now, the way the funds work is we modify then pay that athlete $200. And then we go to our gym and collect the money from them.

Ameet (30:27):

Well, as you can imagine, the heat of COVID fitness studios are shutting down left and right, or trying to figure out how to create any revenue. The fear you have is, well, are the dollars gonna be there to collect when these athletes do chargebacks? And so, you know, we process nearly a billion dollars in transactions. So you can do some quick math and realize one bad month and our business would be completely shut down. And so I spoke to some experts in the credit card industry, and they said, you gotta hold the funds. You gotta hold the funds longer, to mitigate some of that risk around chargebacks so that the funds are there. And so I thought to myself, oh my gosh, like we are in a predicament here we are in the heat of COVID. Our gyms are trying to figure out how to survive.

Ameet (31:11):

We’re trying to figure out how to survive. The last thing I wanna do is wait till April 1st, when most gyms bill to top of the month. And so the biggest opportunity to hold their funds and mitigate risk from a Wodify perspective is wait till like April 4th or fifth, and then begin holding the funds. I didn’t wanna do that because I felt like, it was not transparent to the gym owner and I wanted to give them every opportunity to survive. And so we did it in March and the motivation was, Hey, gym owner, like, I’m gonna have to hold your funds. I just have to, otherwise I may not have a business and we won’t be here. Right. And so I’m gonna do it now, early in March that come April 1st, you might find alternative methods, like check cash, Venmo, whatever. Don’t use us, stay afloat.

Ameet (32:00):

The mistake I made, the critical mistake I made was not getting in front of the camera or writing a blog article to explain what we were doing at the time. I can tell you those first three weeks of COVID. I mean, I overnight, we had to become a remote organization and you’re in stressful times. And, I think, you know, the mistake I made is I didn’t communicate it. It was such a touchy topic and we were the first ones to do it. I thought to myself, well, if I say anything, it’s gonna be wrong. So maybe it’s better not to say anything at all. You are absolutely correct. We took a lot of heat. unfortunately we lost a lot of customers, but I still stand behind our decision. I feel proud about it. but if I could do it again, I would’ve done a much better job communicating the why to our gym owners

Chris (32:49):

Ordinarily. I mean, you guys are really good at communicating. Eric Allen, once when I visited in 2018 was telling me this story, that something like 40% of the people who canceled said that they were going to another platform because it had this additional feature. And in every single case Wodify also had that feature <laugh>. And so at that point, you guys were just figuring out, like, how do we actually communicate how much we actually have on this platform? How did you guys resolve that problem?

Ameet (33:21):

Well, I would tell you, we haven’t resolved it. We put a lot of effort in trying to minimize that. but it still happens, unfortunately. And the opposite occurs. Like we have some clients come to us from a competitor and they say, yeah, I’m leaving. Cause they don’t offer that feature. I’m thinking like, yes, they do. They do offer that feature. So I think what we we’ve been talking about, I’ll call it and I’m doing air quotes and our listeners can’t see me do the air quotes, but, account management. So we’ve been talking about it for a number of years. We actually stood up an account management team, about 18 months ago. And it has proven to be super valuable. So what we’re doing is proactively reaching out to gym owners now and developing a plan.

Ameet (34:04):

What are you trying to achieve this year? Let’s not try to do all of it at once. And we’re, collaboratively building a plan and helping them implement the software. And so we’re thinking about like, what does it look like over the next year? So, OK. You’re not ready for, automated email messaging yet. OK. We’ll wait six months, but at least now they understand that the feature exists and there’s a plan to implement it. You know, gym owners, you know, technology, isn’t typically their thing, or it may not even be interesting to them. Right. And so it’s no wonder that they’re not like spending their Saturday afternoon digging through Wodify and trying to figure out what features they should or could be implementing. And so the answer for us is to proactively reach out. And I know, one time we were at Wodapalooza and one of thegym owners was like, oh, I love Wodify. I just wish you could, sell online memberships. Like we absolutely sell online memberships. So to answer your question, we have not solved the problem. We probably never will. But, we’re certainly doing much, much better with our proactive outreach.

Chris (35:05):

But there’s a balance there too, because I know that some software companies, what they’ll do is they’ll over promise, right? And they’ll say like, oh, that’s on our product Growth ToolKit three to six months. And then two years later, they still don’t have it. So, what is on the product Growth ToolKit for you guys that you can concretely say will be done soon?

Ameet (35:25):

What I would tell you is today we have the strongest product and engineering team the company’s ever seen. Now, mind you, the team’s fairly new, right? Because we downsized, with COVID and now we built this new team. So we’re just now catching our stride. I would say one of the things that we’ve done most recently is we made uptime a priority and I’m happy to report we’re having a great year. So, you know, playing downtime at an absolute minimum. And that’s because we figured out how to do no downtime releases, which sounds insignificant. It’s not. It’s a big task to figure out how to upgrade the software. You know, it’s like, I don’t know, changing tires on a bus while it’s moving. Right. That’s what you’re trying to accomplish. And we figured out how to do it. the other thing was we’ve really had, unplanned down times an absolute minimum this year.

Ameet (36:18):

So we’re really doing really well in terms of uptime. The other thing I would tell you is now we’re we’ve got our infrastructure stabilized we’re we have kind of three pillars that we’re looking at. So the first is we wanna allow gym owners to lead with their brand and not ours. So we do things like allow the gym to, lead with their brand on the client app. The big feature we’re revamping our online sales portal this year. And that too will follow that same branding, that you can apply in the client app. The second thing we’re doing is we’re connecting. I’ve been saying this for years, so I’ve already seen the mockups. We’re building it as we speak, but we’re connecting our coaches to their clients in a way they haven’t before.

Ameet (37:05):

We will be this year providing tools to coaches so they can create a much more tailored experience for the client. Some examples, just simple things, allowing the coach to sign athletes in and out, allowing the coach to see, someone’s performance, allowing them to see how to load the bar. So if I say 60% of your one rep max, quickly been able to go see who, who signed in and be able to walk through the gym and say, you don’t even have to get your cell phone out or go up to the kiosk. I’ll give you the answer. And then also just do simple things, allowing to track notes, alerts from coach, to coach, for the athlete, again, to create a really tailored experience. I think about when I got into CrossFit, one of the ways I sort of justify, you know, paying $200, let’s call it instead of $20 for a traditional gym was I thought it was something in between the traditional gym and personal training.

Ameet (37:56):

So I think any time we can create more value to create a more personalized experience that further justifies, you know, paying the hundred 50 to 700, 750 a month for a functional fitness, membership. And then finally, and this is a big ticket item. We’re transforming our application into a platform. So what we’ve built to date is an application where gym owners can pick and choose the features we have. But it’s, you know, we’ve already created the workflow. We said, well, this is how we think you should run this workflow. And so gym owners are forced to either adopt it or come up with workarounds. And frankly, sometimes as workarounds, they’re not great. And so what we’re doing now is, abstracting concepts. And allowing every time we build a margin, now we think about, well, how do we build it so that our gym owners can configure the software to meet their needs and allow the gym owners to run their own workflows and not be beholden to the way we dictate.

Ameet (38:50):

So just some examples, I mentioned customer reporting, right? So we stopped sort of guessing at what reports you need. And we stopped saying, oh, well this one of 5,000 gyms had a great idea for this report. Should we make it a standard report? Right? And sometimes it’s perfect for that one gym, but it, the other 4,999, it provides no value. Right? And so we put a lot of energy into, building our customer reporting and now gym owners can either on their own, or we’re happy to do it collaboratively. We train and educate you via screen share on how you can create those customer reports yourself have ’em delivered to you, your, your staff members, et cetera. Another example, we’re implementing a questionnaire module. So today when the way the workflow works today is when you sign a waiver of some questions you can ask again, we’re extracting that concept, making it more robust, but just creating a questionnaire module, which you could then send out in an SMS message, an email message in email, or make it part of the onboarding experience, when I’m signing waivers and contracts and allowing you to collect data again, to create a much more tailored experience for your athlete.

Ameet (39:56):

So I think in summary, we want our gym owners this year to lead with their brand, not ours. We wanna connect coaches in a way that we never have before using technology and connect them to their clients so they can create a much more tailored experience. And then finally we’re transforming, and this is gonna, this is a multiyear project transforming our application into a platform. So the gym owners aren’t forced to make concessions, rather they can configure the software and we’re happy to help them configure the software to meet their needs.

Chris (40:29):

Very interesting. So, I know a lot of gyms are actually going through rebrands right now. And so this is probably pretty timely for them. But when you’re thinking about the future of Wodify as a company, obviously you’re saying like the company is much harder to build by an order of magnitude than the product itself. What are you thinking of as the future of Wodify, and maybe we can talk about like, what are some of the partnerships that you’re working on? Maybe some opportunities that you’ve even turned down.

Ameet (40:58):

I mean, the future’s super bright. I mean, this year we have a company and that company is building out great features. So the future is bright. And I fully anticipate because we’re moving to a platform, we’re gonna be able to support, many different genres oof health and wellness, not just today, you know, today we’re predominantly in functional fitness and martial arts. In terms of partnerships, we have a number of great partnerships. And recently we had an opportunity to, partner with CrossFit. So in the early days, you know, we had reached out to CrossFit for years and we just, it never really happened and materialized anything. We just couldn’t build a relationship. And, I guess it was about a year and a half ago, or so Eric Roza, new owner of,CrossFit outta Boulder, Colorado reached out and frankly, was super excited.

Ameet (41:51):

And so we took, a portion of our leadership team and we flew out to Boulder, met with, the CrossFit leadership and really kind of extended an olive branch, I would say. And, you know, we had more CrossFit data than any other organization in the world, including CrossFit themselves. And we thought, my gosh, this is an opportunity to partner with CrossFit, share some of our data to build a stronger ecosystem. We also shared some of our recent successes. So we launched the Wodify marketplace a couple years ago and thought, Hey, that might be an opportunity for, CrossFit to get involved and really, contribute to the community. And, you know, you roll the clock a couple months forward. And we found out that, CrossFit had acquired HAMplan. So we were like, oh, OK. I didn’t see that coming left, fell a little outta the loop, but still excited.

Ameet (42:41):

Cause we thought we had an opportunity to work together. In the end. I guess frankly, I would tell you, it was kind of a one sided proposition. You know, one thing is CrossFit really wanted us to allow them to lead all communication and the billing had to go through them and that didn’t fit our business model and our processes. So we had to really change our business process in a massive way to come up with these exceptions. the second thing they didn’t really want us communicating and supporting them and signing them up. And we’re like, well, that doesn’t work well with us because yes, we provide software, but that’s only half the equation. The other half of the equation is the relationships, the authentic relationships we build with our customers to support them and understand what their business needs are.

Ameet (43:26):

And that would be leaving, you know, half of the value that we provide off the table. And then finally the economics were not favorable. We would’ve eroded our margins and cannibalized our own business. And I always said, you know, no passion without profit. And, I suppose there’s a fourth thing that would’ve happened is we would’ve, you know, we have a number of partners that were with us two years ago and we really want everybody in the ecosystem to win. And I think in this model, it would’ve been a little bit heavily favored towards one partner and not everybody, and that didn’t sit well with us. So in the end, we walked away from the relationship. We, I think we absolutely cherish the relationships we have and the business relationships we have, and we will continue to foster new ones and even leave the, the door cracked open for, you know, future, relationship with CrossFit. So super excited about the opportunity thought we were gonna make it happen. but in the end we did walk away and, tough decision, you know, building your business 10 years ago, you know, on CrossFit now moving into martial arts and functional fitness. Great. But for sure, committed to the CrossFit community and really hoped we could build a relationship and further build out the ecosystem together, but didn’t happen. And maybe it will in the future.

Chris (44:49):

That’s OK. I don’t think anybody’s gonna question your commitment to the CrossFit community. I mean, it’s been, proven over and over and some of those decisions have been hard, you know, obviously being transparent about the payment processing stuff, some of them have been costly, like the grid league, you know?

Ameet (45:08):

Yes, indeed. <laugh>

Chris (45:10):

But how has this process of entrepreneurship and growth and innovation, you know, how has that kind of changed you as an entrepreneur over the last decade?

Ameet (45:22):

You know, what keeps life interesting or my career interesting is new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. And, you know, as the business has grown and transformed, I have had to grow and transform. And so the big transition I’m going through right now is trying to transition from being a boss to a leader. Now, people had said that phrase to me years and years ago, and I don’t know if the company wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready for it. Maybe it wasn’t, emotionally there, but I’m there now. And that’s my big challenge is how do I transform myself from a boss to a leader? And how do I give folks the opportunity to make their own choices and lead with some autonomy? We’re doing it. it’s tough sometimes cuz sometimes I’m like, I know the answer.

Ameet (46:08):

I just wanna give it to you. <laugh> but it’s been great. I mean this entrepreneurial journey has been great. I mean I started, I don’t know in high school I had a car detailing business, I’ve sold crabs online. I’ve worked at multi-billion dollar companies, I’ve installed TVs. With Wodify it’s been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful for it because it keeps it really, really super interesting, you know, the business and the entrepreneurial journey continues to challenge me. And I suppose now, you know, I’m older, almost 50, I’m getting there. And so now I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing young, talented, hungry team members join our team and like kind of like freshen their career and being part of that experience, watching them grow in their career that is providing me great joy as well. So I guess to answer your question, I’m so grateful that I’ve taken this entrepreneur over my career and it’s provided me a tremendous value and fulfillment.

Chris (47:09):

That’s great, man. Thank you. II think that gym owners and other entrepreneurs who listen to this can get a lot outta this podcast from, you know, the start, innovating in a market that’s very tied into kind of like the old way of doing things to leading through crisis, to making mistakes. And finally just accepting that it’s a journey. So thanks a lot Ameet. I think there’s a lot of great lessons in this one.

Ameet (47:31):

Thanks Chris. Really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much. Great seeing you again.

Chris (47:34):

Yeah, you too.

Mike (47:39):

That was Two-Brain Radio. Be sure to hit subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. Now here’s Chris with a final message.

Chris (47:45):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.



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