Many mental models have helped me build the gym. One of my favorites is something I’ll call - the Rule of Product and then Market. Meaning - build your product first and then market.
Here’s how I went about this.
Myself: The most important part of the product to build first was me. This involved two parts. The first was something that I’ve been quite open about in previous articles and that was my health. As per the second, this was continuing to understand my strengths and weaknesses and put myself and Hudson Avenue in a position to succeed. For instance, at my former employer, I knew I needed to improve my business and training maturity, and intelligence, so I did. I did this by making a ton of mistakes, but also by attending seminars, listening to those wiser, and reading countless books. Here, it was a little different. I needed to improve the foundational direction of the gym. I needed to make sure that when we were ready to set sail that the captain and the ship were prepared for all scenarios. So, I focused on that. I crafted the personal and business mission, values, and culture, and made sure that at each step of building we didn’t alter from this. Without this foundation of self - the take-off would make for a failed landing.
The Gym: Once there was greater confidence in myself and the direction, I started focusing the product attention on the aesthetics and customer experience of the gym. For the outside world, this may seem like an easy task. As in, use your credit card, buy what you need, and set up shop. However, in practice, it didn’t work like so. Rather, I needed to be patient and let many things come together. For instance, I learned more about myself and the direction of the gym that would change certain features of the space. Furthermore, I was working with a colleague at the time, and things needed to be changed to appease both of us. Finally, as different products, such as the online programming, took flight, things needed to change in the gym as well. Buying the equipment was the easy part, however, the set-up, intuitive thought, and flow was something that I thought immensely about and needed to be close to perfect.
The Office Building: When the gym started taking shape, I was ready to start selling a little bit more. Here, I took the path of least resistance. Forgetting your direct network of friends and family, the most logical answer was introducing myself to the tenants of the building. So, I headed over to each office, with a speech and hand-written note. And, as what is a theme for most of these steps towards growth, it didn’t go as expected. I befriended most, however, they either had trainers or didn’t need. However, on the flip side of this theme was that it might have been a short-term failure, but it continued to allow me to refine my message. This was an asset - the more people that I could speak to, the more I could understand the product they wanted. Also, finally, a month later, the CEO of the tech company nearby signed his employees up for corporate wellness with Hudson. Progress was made.
The Main Street: After completing the tour de office building, I set my sights on my street - Sherbrooke West. Before signing the lease, I chose this street strategically because of foot-traffic, demographics, and logistics. Here, the plan was two-fold. The first was to go from retail shop to retail shop with flyers and a speech. Sort of like the office building. The second was to continue to improve my already strong relationship with Lululemon. They were adjacent to the gym and always treated local fitness institutions very well. As per the former, once again, in practice, it didn’t go as well as I thought. The retail shop employees wanted something different than I was able to offer. However, I noted this and went back to improve the product, pitch, and flyers. On the other hand, the Lululemon situation worked out well. They allowed me to set-up a booth outside their shop one day and eventually would send some staff to participate in training sessions.
The Area and Community: The last of the steps that I’ve fully followed was the area and community. Here, the decision was to go door-to-door and drop off flyers to the homes that surrounded the area. As per the consistent theme from above, this didn’t go as well as hoped. However, once again, I learned through some of the mistakes that I needed more feet, better flyers, and a stronger message to attract clients. That being said, once again I did find a few leads so a little progress was made.
The Greater Area and Community: This would be the last of the steps that are within the mental model. I haven’t given much attention to this part yet - as I haven’t needed to. Although, there are snippets of this part that I’m currently attacking. For instance, such as this article, I’m trying to do more content creation by showcasing to the greater public the product of Hudson Avenue. However, each time I get closer to this step, I decide to head back to the product and improve it. Product development will always be my bread and butter, however, without working from the inside out, I would’ve never learned what the public wanted.
I think the best thing that came from the office building, street, and area, was that at each step it might have not gone as planned but I spoke to people. I had a good idea of the product I needed and the market, however, by spending most of the day speaking to people, I was able to continue to refine and learn what they wanted. This helped me to continue to build the right product for the right market.