103: Randy Hetrick: CEO of TRX talks about 14 years as a Navy Seal and the summits he has had to climb to develop a new wave of working out.
Randy Hetrick is the Founder and CEO of successful fitness company, TRX. He is a former U.S. Navy Seal who served for 14 years on both Seal Team 1 and the legendary Seal Team 6. Growing up, Randy was a competitive wrestler and rower, which he says are “grinder sports that no one gives a damn about”. Interestingly, statistics show that athletes with backgrounds in these two sports have the highest chance for completing BUD/S, which has an 85% drop rate. During one of his foreign deployments with the SEALS, Randy came up with a fitness contraption that would later turn into the TRX. Not only was Randy foreign deployed, but during this time he obtained a Masters in National Security Affairs & lobbied for the Special Ops Command in D.C. He then went on to obtain his MBA from Stanford Business School which led him to turn his fledgeling fitness product into a full-blown company that now does over $50M in annual revenue.
On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, former Navy SEAL & successful fitness entrepreneur Randy Hetrick talks about his mostly classified military service and subsequent transition into the entrepreneur world. Randy shares the ups and downs of product development manufacturing, enjoying the trek as you reach new summits and pivoting your business when your primary plan doesn’t work out as expected. He takes us on the TRX life journey: inventing the TRX in the field as a SEAL, investing all of his savings to purchase his initial inventory, turning down a huge deal with Costco, raising private equity capital (which he calls the biggest mistake of his life) and now preparing to launch a subscription service for 300,000 trainers. He discusses the rise of “functional training” and the emphasis on “small tools, big movements”. Listen in as Randy discusses encountering and overcoming the “false summits” that we all face in life. Randy’s incredible story reminds all of us that big ideas do, in fact, come in small, unassuming packages and are usually born out of necessity!
What You Will Learn:
Randy talks about how he came up with the initial idea for the TRX training system while being foreign deployed for months without workout gear but still having the need to train. He was able to perform functional training by pulling himself up against gravity using a jiu-jitsu belt with a knot on the end thrown over a door. He later added an additional handle and began doing curls, rows, presses, flys, etc. TRX was born!
Randy shares about how his product was launched into a business at Stanford. He would hook up his straps to a squat rack and crush workouts at the Athletic Training Center. When the different head coaches began asking him to make TRX straps for each of their teams, he realized there was a broad market for the product. With this realization, he decided to launch the product into a full-blown business after graduating.
Randy gives his top advice for entrepreneurs: come from a rich family & never quit! He believes there is rarely a summit in life; instead, there are usually false summits. What comes after a false summit is a downhill slope. You have to go down into the abyss to get to the next summit.
Randy discusses “the biggest mistake of my life”: raising private equity money in 2012. Based on his experience, raising institutional capital is usually not a great idea. Looking back, He would’ve trimmed sales and grown at the pace the business could grow at. Once you take institutional capital, no growth is ever enough, and you are trapped with those investors. The only way to get them out is by raising more private equity which continues the cycle.
Randy gives some insight on TRX’s growth prospects and trajectory moving forward. He says, “We are about to hit an inflection point, the business is currently trending higher…we have a very high (profit) margin”. TRX has a subscription service launching later this year designed to help their trainers make money. They’ve put 300,000 trainers through their qualification courses over the last 10 years and are now in a position to monetize this success. After 12 years in the B2B space, TRX is moving into B2C, and Randy sees them as the “Amazon of Fitness”.
Randy believes that TRX has benefited from the rise of “functional training”. This is a focus on “movements, not muscles” or as Randy says, “small tools, big movements”. If you can move well and fire/stabilize the right muscles then you’re a vital human. At 53, Randy feels much healthier now than he did when he was a SEAL lifting heavy weight. It’s all about core integration, small muscle stabilizers and big movements. He encourages us to be “More like a monkey than a bull!”.
Into the abyss:
Randy Hetrix is no stranger to combat or adversity. He is self-admittedly, someone who has always had “a weird gravitational pull towards hard stuff”. Randy was very sickly as a child and visited the hospital 6 different times by the age of 8. Once he got past this limitation, he channelled his focus into “grinder sports” such as wrestling and rowing. Sports that he says “no one gives a damn about” but mentally prepared him for BUD/S, the gruelling process of becoming a Navy Seal. As an entrepreneur, he still faces constant adversity in the form of unrelenting institutional investors and counterfeiters the world around.
Reaching the next summit:
Randy Hetrix is the type of person that looks adversity in the face and asks “Is that all you got?”. He says, “With a good set of webbing, riggers tape and 550 cord you can take over the world!” Randy spent his life savings to start his company and then raised $5M in angel investment in the Bay Area during the post-dotcom bubble burst. Just like his time in the military, he had to be nimble and ready to pivot. Randy reminds other entrepreneurs, “The best plan doesn’t survive the early moments of deployment…you must have a secondary and tertiary plan”. Early on, he made the hard decision to turn down a 20,000 unit pilot order with Costco. This ended up being a great decision, because he ended up having some manufacturing defects in this same inventory (as almost all products in their early stages do). As TRX grew, challenges grew. They had a global explosion of counterfeiters that almost brought them down. Every stitch and sew shop in southern China turned their attention on TRX from 2013-2017, but in 2017 TRX won a federal infringement case and counterfeiters were stopped dead in their tracks
Links to Additional Resources:
- Violets are Blue – Natural Skincare [Sponsor]
Laird Superfood – Code: Markp20 [Sponsor]
Be sure to check out Mark’s new e-learning course here. Mark has a free PDF that gets you started. He’s also got an assessment tool designed to help you achieve your goals.
Free 10 Question Assessment: https://www.findingyoursummit.net/assessment/test?id=1