Alden Mills, founder of Perfect Fitness, received his most valuable business lessons while serving in the Navy SEALS.
These included how to practice unconventional warfare, how to keep going even when the race is over and why you should always take along a swim buddy.
One lesson he got later, though, was going with your gut.
Mills had invented a rotational weight system that provided a full-body workout. Industry experts advised him and his partner to make an infomercial aimed at women. The partners were dead set against it, but the experts convinced them.
Mills moved to California’s Orange County, recruited 35 women and trained them personally, then created and ran a show on different TV channels, day and night, dropping most of his friends’ $1.5 million startup money in the process.
“But there was a big disconnect,” he says. “Here’s a Navy SEAL doing a workout show just for women. It didn’t work.”
With their last $25,000, the partners went after what they’d wanted to do in the first place.
They launched a second product called Perfect Pushup, a new version of a pushup stand that added rotation to provide more natural movement, engage more muscles and go easy on joints. They advertised to men in Outside, Men’s Journal and Men’s Fitness.
Perfect Pushup was an immediate hit. In two months, the partners had enough cash to spring for TV ads and proceeded directly to sports channels. Next they sought out retail shelves, and within a year Perfect Pushup was in 24,000 stores.
Lesson: Do it your way. Really.
—Adapted from “How I Did It,” Alden Mills, Inc. magazine.