“Being an entrepreneur is a race without a finish line.”
Callye Keen sits down with Bill Strahan to talk about the lessons learned as serial entrepreneurs.
Bill has always loved making things. From a very young age he has been building things. He started by taking things apart and putting them back together, eventually moving to creating new things. He once called his grandfather at 2AM to ask him about how to rectify a current. His grandfather patiently answered him and then asked if they could continue the conversation in the morning.
Bill got into computers at the age of 12, and immediately fell in love with it. He veered into software, building a company and eventually selling it. He thought once the business was sold he would retire and enjoy life. He is definitely enjoying life, but he is hardly retired. He’s a serial entrepreneur. Bill and his wife Becky started a couple product based businesses, Armored Fitness and Bruce Charles Designs.
Soon after launching Armored Fitness, Bill realized that he knew how to start software companies but product development was a different challenge. As a result, he’s spent the last 10 years learning how to run these businesses. He's focused on customer success, product development, and idea generation.
[06:10] Personal development and the fidget spinner
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I came across a YouTube channel, and was watching welding videos. Through those videos I realized how helpful a lathe would be. I learned how to build really cool products as a result of educating myself on YouTube.
[09:30] Continuous Improvement
You can buy a lathe for a few hundred dollars and start playing with it. You can be creative and make something on day one, and something better on day two. And honestly a year later you can still find a way to improve what you’re making. The product development process is all about idea generation and product ideas.
[13:35] Innovations as a result of necessity
Sometimes you meet people and you immediately know that they attract good people. I started at a new CrossFit gym and the owner was one of those people. I ended up welding some things for him, and eventually built what would turn out to be the XPO Trainer for him. But I wanted something different because the old model sled was inefficient. I built something with resistance and a motor to support strength training.
[15:55] Actions create opportunities
We made expensive mistakes when we started. It took 6 or 7 years before we had a real company. It was a hard dark time, but I’m glad we persevered. The business analysis and product management part of the business were new for me with a product.
[19:10] Don’t love your ideas too much
You don’t get to decide if you’re cool. You can be perfectly satisfied with being you, but that doesn’t mean you’re cool. Cool is what other people think of you. That’s how products work. That’s how businesses work.
[20:30] Products that require customer education are hard to sell
There have been many times I have said I will never bring a product like our fitness equipment XPO Trainer to market again. In the early stages the XPO Trainer didn’t make sense to consumers. There was so much conversation to educate the customers in the early days. No testimonials. I had to find ways to improve processes around customer education. I quit trying to explain it and started telling people to try it. The product concept was a challenge.
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