Episode 02: Why We Started PushPress and WHY It Matters to Your Gym
He also dives into why he believes the counterculture mindset is such an important part of the PushPress framework and why being a gym owner has become part of the hiring process.
“Our goal is modest and simple: to give our clients everything they need to succeed.”
— Dan Uyemura
Selected Links From Episode
- Who is Dan Uyemura? [1:00]
- Dan’s introduction to CrossFit. [3:12]
- Two worlds collide and Dan decides to open a CrossFit gym. [4:45]
- What makes PushPress different. [5:48]
- The origins of the PushPress name. [8:08]
- The counterculture mindset. [8:39]
- PushPress + Stripe. [9:24]
- Why we believe in specializing vs. all-in-ones. [12:16]
- PushPress + SugarWOD. [12:55]
- Why I love our PushPress team. [14:20]
- Why we started The gymOS Podcast. [14:48]
Full Episode Transcript
Dan Uyemura: Welcome to the Gym OS podcast, helping fitness professionals become better business owners. One episode at a time.
Have you ever taken the time to think about your story? Better yet, have you ever told your clients about your story? You may not realize it because you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about yourself in this way, but your story is important to your clients.
The goal of this episode is pretty simple. I want you to know PushPress’ backstory. I want you and understand who we are, why we’re doing this, and how come we are the best people in this industry to fix the problems that we’re seeing. I also want you to understand the power of storytelling, and why telling your story is just as important to your clients as it is for you to understand our story.
Before we dig too deep on the PushPress story. Let’s talk about me. I’m Dan Uyemura, CEO of Pushpress, and the host of The gymOS Podcast. For some reason, I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. I used to have paper routes when I was 12. I remember collecting baseball cards as if they were stocks. I would keep track of their value every month, the percent gain and loss. And instead of just jonesing for one Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, I wanted 20.
I went to college right around the time the Internet started becoming commercially viable, and then it was a pretty exciting time. They were like cool ideas coming up left and right around this birth of the Internet, and as an entrepreneur it was like being a kid in a candy store. I remember being intrigued by everything everyone was building around this new age of information. I remember I used to hang out at the Graduate School of Management of my college because there were so many ideas flowing around, and I used to just try and fit in and be kind of a fly on a wall to understand the types of things people were building and how they went about it.
Throughout my childhood, I was also into sports, fitness and athletics. As a child, I grew up playing basketball and baseball. In fact, for those of you who are into baseball, you know it’s kind of a statistical nerd’s dream, and I remember as a child just obsessing over all my stats. I had a spreadsheet that I created, and I recorded every stat from every game: at bats, hits, on base percentage, even fielding errors, and fielding percentage. I was into it, man, and and I guess that was my earliest understanding of just how much I love data.
Anyway, through college, I was a typical gym rat. I used to love being in the gym. I played rec league basketball. Even today, I coach my daughter’s basketball team. It’s just who I am, and it’s what I love. So, anyway, upon graduating college, I did what most entrepreneurs did, and I tried to start a company, which failed. Then I took my skills and I worked for a bunch of startups in the Internet space. This was a great experience. I got to hang with the entrepreneurial crowds I got to see what it was like to grow a business, but I didn’t have the risk of actually being the entrepreneur. During this time of Internet companies, they used to feed everyone every night, and the ploy was to get you to be more productive by staying at your desk and working. But what they did is they basically catered something like pizza or Italian food every single night, and free food is free food, I used to eat it. After about seven years, I easily found myself overweight, and I decided it was time for a change. After doing a lot of investigation, I found this thing called CrossFit, and I remember literally being halfway through my first workout and I fell in love with it. I couldn’t see myself doing any other fitness. It was so fun, and it was everything that every other fitness experience I had wasn’t, so for a period of my life, this was it. I would go into work from 9 to 5 being a Web application programmer for startups, and once I left my job at 5pm, I would hurry on over to CrossFit and do the 630pm workout, and then go home, eat dinner and call it a night.
Like many of you out there listening to this, you probably fell in love with it just as much as I did. I quickly aspired to be a coach, and with my coaching expertise I helped a friend open a gym, and once I kind of went down that route of helping a friend open a gym, I started looking to the software of gym management, and I realized that there wasn’t much out there that satisfied my understanding of what a good software platform should be given that I was in the process of building them for all these startups. This is where two worlds collided for me, having recognized the fact that most of the software out there was subpar, in my opinion, and also loving CrossFit so much that I decided I want to open a gym. The next obvious step for me was to open a gym and decide if I wanted to build a software for it, and that’s exactly what we did. I found a couple other people from the gym I was going to who were keen on the idea of opening a gym, and also who came from kind of a software and sales background, and we did that. We opened LAX CrossFit in 2010 with the intention of exploring the idea of building a software around the gym management space.
I think if you inspect any company, there’s always these moments they get lucky on, nothing really planned, it just happened that way, and I think opening a gym was one of those moments for us. It really gave us insight into what it was like to own a gym. We had all these assumptions of what we needed to build for our gym management platform, and it turned out none of them were right once we actually got into the weeds of running a gym. With this realization came even a deeper understanding that all the gym software out there was flawed. It became really apparent to me that whatever software solutions were out there at the time were not built around whatever modern business practices we were deploying at our gym. What we were deploying at the gym wasn’t crazy because it was all the same practices that a lot of these startup companies that I had worked for used. For example, landing pages, simple ways for customers to convert once they got to understand your business. No other system had a landing page. Today, you’ll see landing pages are pretty pervasive. It’s an understood concept, but in 2010 this just wasn’t represented in the gym space whatsoever. So the first big realization we had at PushPress was we couldn’t copy what the existing systems did, and from our observation and kind of picking apart the other systems, they all seem to kind of copy each other. They were copying, what we felt, was an old, archaic and or flawed model for a modern gym. Thus, we set out to kind of redefine the entire space and build something from the ground up, taking all the experiences we had from actually owning a gym.
The other way this dramatically helped us was we got to make friends with other gym owners. We talked to them. We learned from them. We got to understand collectively what best practices were because they genuinely were our peers.
Last and probably most important, we got to understand what customers wanted. We got to understand what people who wanted to join our gym expected to see and what type experiences they needed to have to become lifelong successful gym members at LAX CrossFit. And so the genesis of PushPress was pretty much formed. We had a team of people together who had a unique experience in building Internet based applications and knew what modern Web applications needed to look and behave like. Then we layered on top of that years of experience of actually running a gym, meeting gym owners, and talking to clients of gyms and really understanding what we needed to build. There was clearly a gap in the market, and we knew we could fill it.
Funny backstory. We named our company PushPress because back then, and probably today, a lot of gyms were using WordPress to manage their websites. Our first version of PushPress was actually built to be a plug into WordPress so you could manage your entire gym from WordPress itself. We quickly realized that building such a robust application from the confines of the framework of WordPress was going to be very limiting and difficult, and we scrapped that version of PushPress pretty quick. But the name stuck.
I think these early days of PushPress really formed a cynicism that we had for the software that was on the market, and from that cynicism kind of begat a counterculture mindset. We really did not want to copy what was out there because we really felt what was out there was wrong. So we pretty systematically picked apart every aspect of running a gym, and we built it from the lense of running a gym in a more modern sense. I really feel like this counterculture mindset was embedded in our DNA really early in our company, and it’s kind of what sets us apart from the rest of the field. We refused to look at what our competition was doing to solve problems, and we refused to solve problems in the status quo. An example of this in the early decisions we made was choosing to partner with Stripe vs. working with a merchant account. The typical systems at the time were basically reselling merchant accounts to our gyms, and I had gone through the frustration of setting up a merchant account for LAX CrossFit, and it was an experience I never wanted another gym owner to go through. The process of setting up a merchant account basically entailed one month of my time for about an hour a day, each day, trying to negotiate and haggle down the best rates I could against, what I didn’t realize was, a professional sales person for the merchant account industry. Guess who won there? He did. So at the end of the day, I thought that I had a merchant account at 1.9%, which I heralded to all my partners as this huge win that I got for us. One of my members of LAX CrossFit, who actually ended up becoming a co-founder of PushPress, Brian, was in the banking field, and he basically told me that it was impossible for us to be getting 1.9% doing the business we’re doing. This is because he knew most of our transactions were not card present, not swiped. In the industry, that represents a higher fraud risk, which brings with it a higher percent rating. He offered to analyze our credit card statements, and the 1.9% that I had bragged for a year to my partners that I had gotten turned out to be about 4.5%. This is after all the statement fees, and PCI compliance fees, and batch transfer fees, and non-card present fees, and fees, fees, fees that we’re paying that we weren’t paying attention to. Once we started PushPress, we did a bunch of credit card statement analysis for gyms as well, and we found pretty much the same thing was happening across the board for about 80 to 90% of gyms. Everyone thought they were getting low 2%. Everyone was paying about 4%. Right around this time, Stripe came out. Stripe was a new merchant processing system that was tailored around building on the Internet. They lowered the barrier to taking credit cards online. They made it really simple to integrate, and best yet, they allowed us to connect our clients with Stripe with ease. Even better, they were advertising a flat and fixed 2.9% credit card rate. This beat all of the confusion that was happening in the credit card merchant processing space where people thought they were paying 2% and were really paying 4%. Stripe recognized it just as much as we recognized it, and they aimed to solve that problem too. They did this essentially by cutting sales people out of the mix. You see when salespeople are involved in the process, they need to make it cut. Stripe sold directly to platforms like us who built it right into our product and essentially became the salesperson for them, and they solved the problem we had in that we needed a billing platform. By doing so, they cut all of the middleman sales initiatives out of the equation, and were able to offer a flat rate. So anyway, that’s pretty much what kicked off a long line of counterculture thought that became part of PushPress’ DNA.
We started coming out with the message that these all-in-one systems were actually doing a disservice to their clients. You can’t do everything and do them all really well. We chose to specialize. Our focus became in specializing in billing and membership management, CRM solutions, and not trying to do everything like workout tracking, and belt tracking, and keyless door systems, and all these other things everyone else was doing. That way, by doing so, we could focus on being the best at the granular thing we do and integrating and working with all the people who are best at doing the things that they do.
A key example of this is our early integration with SugarWod, one of the most well known workout tracking systems on the market. Every other one of our competitors in the CrossFit space was building their own workout tracking system. We realized pretty quickly that building a workout tracking system would be such an endeavor, we’d rather work with SugarWod and let them continue to build the absolute best system that they could, allowing us to focus on building the integration to them and continuing down our path of doing what we do best. Again, I feel like a lot of these concepts came out of the fact that all of us here at PushPress had come from an Internet industry background, and we understood how the Internet industry worked, and the best ways to build software.
So that brings us to today, that’s the backstory of PushPress. That’s why we’re here. That’s how I became involved and my partners’ became involved. I’m happy to say today we’ve achieved what’s known as product market fit. We built a platform that is winning for gyms. We’re helping our clients become better gyms, and we’re improving upon that daily. Not only have we built that platform, but we built what we feel is the industry’s most stable platform. We never have billing issues, and we boast a 99.998% up time. Our response time is fast to all customer service enquiries, and we do everything we can to keep our service speedy and keep the user experience great.
Something else I’m super pumped about is our team. Only gym owners understand this industry as if their gym owners, and we put together a team of people who love PushPress so much in their gym that they wanted to join PushPress as a success representative. Anyone you speak to on the front end of our service owns a gym and has been a PushPress client. They understand our product really well, and they understand your problems and your pains because they’re facing them too.
The most ambitious product we’re working on right now is this, the podcast, education helping gym owners become better business owners. This is the number one problem in our industry right now is a lot of people open gyms because they love fitness, and they didn’t realize that they were going to become a business owner. Running a business isn’t hard. There’s a lot of playbooks and rules that you can follow to be a good business owner, and we’re gonna work on those here. Our goal is modest and simple: to give our clients everything they need to succeed. On one hand, that’s our product, the software and the customer support. But on the other hand, it’s education. The best way for you to have a client who stays with you for life is to show them results, to teach them how to live a better, healthier, fitter life, to give them the tools that they need to be happy. Similarly, the best way for us to have you as a lifelong client is to do the same, to give you all the tools you need, as well as all of the education you need to build a stable business that will stand the test of time.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to the PushPress backstory. I’m Dan Uyemura, the host of The gymOS Podcast from PushPress. I’m super excited for the upcoming episodes, and I hope you join me as we continue to dive deep into the business of fitness and help you make your gym more successful.
If any of the information in this podcast is helpful to you make sure you give us a like, that way other gym owners might be able to find it too. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to this podcast for more information on running a better gym.
Until next time, I’m Dan Uyemura, see you next time.