What it means to be a lean start-up: insight into the workings of Blitz

Spin Blitz Conditioning front.jpegI will be the first to admit that a post from me is long overdue. I have been consumed with a lot of reading about start-ups and what we can do to further develop our business. I didn’t think there was much to write about that would be of interest to our readers until Chris wrote about the five-year anniversary. A light bulb went off that connected all the articles, books and journals I have read to what we stand for at Blitz and “how we put the muscle in the community”.

Five years in business, especially in this industry, is a long time. The odds of a start-up making it past the first two years are slim, with 75% failing. If a company can double that timeline, like we have, that is an accomplishment on its own. Credit can be attributed to the amazing work Brett and Chris have done to get Blitz up and running, continually offering a consistent workout with HIIT being at the forefront, and ensuring we became synonymous with community.

With the above mentioned, you might be asking why I am the one writing this post instead of them. As someone that hasn’t been a part of the company from the beginning, I have the opportunity to review the business as somewhat of a consultant. I was a client and a member of the Blitz community for longer than I have been a business partner therefore, I can analyze the business, ask the tough questions and be critical of past decisions without having the emotional attachment or bias opinion that a grassroots owner might have.

In my attempt to step back and look at Blitz through a critical lens I have learned many things but the most important was that without knowing, Blitz’s business model has consistently reflected that of a “lean start-up”. The “lean start-up” is a term coined by Eric Reis in 2011 based on his own business method following a 2008 failure he attributes to the traditional methods of launching a business. Thanks to the efforts by Mr. Reis, we don’t all have to learn the hard way.

But what does being a “lean start-up” mean? Does that make Blitz a “pinch your pennies organization” in hopes of thinning out the overhead or is it a superficial pun based on a small fitness boutique? Neither. The methodology of a “lean start-up” favours experimentation over elaborate planning, feedback from clients over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up front” development. It simply means you hit the ground running and adapt along the way rather than sitting around a table strategizing about the business model and how the consumer will hypothetically receive the product.

For this methodology to work – knowing that nothing is perfect gives you quite the business advantage over your competitors. If Blitz had focused on building the perfect business plan, analyzed all variables that could work for or against us, predicted every outcome of the product before release – we may have never opened the doors five years ago, and I am certain if you ask many of the Edmonton entrepreneurs, they would say the same. We have all, at some point, taken a leap-of-faith and gone with our guts on numerous business decisions. The good part is there is a coined term that we can reference when others call us crazy or impulsive.

Blitz has taken leaps-of-faith and tested a few programs over the years. Some might be deemed as successes while others we prefer to not talk about – flashback to yoga at Blitz. Yes, the studio you know as being one of the hardest workouts you will get in Edmonton had classes focused on downward dog and relaxation. Don’t get me wrong – we see the benefits of yoga in ones life and encourage all to integrate into their regimes but we are the first to recognize we are by no means experts in that field. We’ll leave it to the pros.

Another experiment was having a triathlon club. This group was a great addition to our community but due to the added equipment, specific programing required, and class timing, this group could never fully integrate into the larger Blitz community. As a result, the decision was made to no longer offer this service.

In a service based lean start-up testing hurts. It’s not just taking a product off the shelves and canning it. It affects the people you train and work with every day. But ultimately it allows us to improve ourselves to better serve you. It gives us confidence that we can step forward as the best fitness community in Edmonton.

Now enters our more recent venture, spin. We launched this product somewhat overnight to our clients. We looked at how we wanted to grow and how we wanted to offer a comprehensive workout regiment within our space. We knew HIIT was a continued success but our clients were looking for something new, something more within our studio and we wanted to provide another option that met those same fitness needs.

So we launched spin, asked for feedback, listened to your comments and adapted, when applicable. This is the very process that makes “lean start-ups” successful. We are upfront with the fact that we are not the same as big business, we actually embrace it. We are not a franchise or a start-up model from another city – Blitz is Edmonton based and uses the Edmonton community to steer our business, and trust me – your opinion matters. Since we started 5 months ago, we have incorporated more high tension classes, have found a balance of upper and lower body drills and we have focused on finding music that has a strong beat to make it easy for everyone to find. All of these suggestions came from you and we have integrated them into our spin classes without compromising our original intent.

We are part of the heartbeat of this city. The ability to evolve with the needs of our community is what will allow us to remain sustainable and relevant. We will continue to introduce new programs like spin when it makes sense but also need to be cognisant of fitness fads, something we are currently seeing with the recent pop-ups of spin studios in North America. As most fads, the appeal of only dedicating yourself to spin or HIIT will fade. Cross training is essential for everyone in order to prevent injuries caused by overuse. We have taken a different approach by developing a long-term sustainable business model within our own walls to guarantee we are offering our clients an injury-free comprehensive fitness regime.

It is on us to ensure we also don’t offer every program out there. We are not a corporate gym and we don’t want to be. There is a lot of thought that goes into the programs, classes and class times but we aren’t perfect. We will mess up. We will have regrets. But currently we are confident with our business model because as a lean start-up we are asking the right questions, looking to our community to support our business decisions and are staying true to our core values. If these decisions do result in missteps – we also commit to owning them.

We will push the envelope and to ask you to be a part of the adventure. We will continue to test new things and we will never give up on being relevant and sustainable. It may present a few more failures along the way but as Winston Churchill once said, “success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

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