Personal trainer, nutrition nerd, part-time adventurer & novice gymnastics student; Regan Kirk has recently returned to Brisbane after stints in Kuwait & Mexico to focus full-time on his latest startup – Trainer Pulse. Trainer Pulse is a web-based platform designed to give personal trainers an easy way to take their business online.
It’s been anything but smooth sailing for Regan, this being his second attempt in the fitness industry. After starting out as a personal trainer in 2005, although fitness was his passion, he fell into the trap of listening to everyone else and decided to leave the industry to study Property Economics at Uni in the hope of getting a “grown up job”. A $25k HECS debt and a year of near depression led him to quit and get back to what he was truly passionate about.
When quizzed if he has any regrets from his failed foray into property, Regan responded with “It was the best thing that could happen to me, sure it cost me $25k, but I figured out that doing something that I wasn’t passionate about was crushing me, a lot of people waste their whole lives working in jobs they hate, turns out the uni degree was money well spent.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
It was something that scratched my own itch.
The reasons were two-fold. Firstly, I was burnt out after a couple of years of averaging 14+ hours a day at the gym, I was sick of trading time for money and I wanted to start training clients online. Secondly, I wanted to start running big challenges, I’d set myself the goal of running a challenge to help people lose a million kilograms.
I checked out software on the market and it didn’t meet my needs, so I drew up some designs, found a development team on upwork.com and we got to work.
Initially, it was just for my personal use, but other trainers started asking about the platform and if they could use it, then it clicked… I could sell subscriptions to my software. As I went through my beta phase – I was speaking with more and more personal trainers.
It turns out that plenty of other trainers were in the same boat I was, they were burnt out and a lot of them wanted to leave the industry. Although fitness can be an extremely rewarding, it can also be extremely taxing. Split shifts, weekend work, huge competition, low pay rates for the amount of hours they’re at the gym, and high gym rents are typically the norm.
To put it in perspective Australia alone produces over 5,000 personal trainers per year, yet the typical career length is less than a year. While we are producing more trainers than ever, Australia’s obesity is still skyrocketing and that is not ok.
What started as a way for me to start online has evolved into a platform that focuses on teaching trainers a smarter way to grow their business online & off.
At last count, we have trainers in 117 cities across the world. The way I see it, the more trainers we can keep in the industry, the more people they can help and hopefully together we can start to reverse the obesity trends.
Could you explain your business model to us?
Trainer Pulse runs on a software as a service (SaaS) model and trainers pay a monthly fee to access the software.
We just added a new set of features which have provided a second source of revenue. We launched a feature called “Auto Coach” which allows trainers to create, deliver & sell their workout programs online.
It automates the whole process and requires no tech skills. Trainer Pulse then takes a percentage of every program sold through the platform.
Can you tell us what you’re working on right now and what you’re most excited about developing?
Right now, Trainer Pulse is expanding features to allow trainers to collaborate on big fitness challenges.
I also really want to launch the million kilogram challenge I mentioned early. It would be really cool if we could get a bunch of trainers working together to achieve a single goal.
How do you make ideas happen?
I work backwards from the idea and create goals and systems around it. Once that is done it really just comes down to doing what is hard. It’s about being a bit harder on yourself and doing the stuff you don’t want to do.
I have a Tim Ferriss quote plastered around my house “A person’s success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have”
It sounds weird but I use discomfort as my compass; the stuff I don’t want to do is typically the what I need to do most.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
Mentors have played a huge role.
I am a personal trainer, I like lifting weights and drinking protein shakes. When I started this I had no idea how to run a software company. I would be nowhere without the help of various mentors.
I often use a site like Clarity to book consults with people who are way smarter than me, the ROI you get from speaking to someone who has achieved what you’re trying to do is unbelievable.
What does your typical day look like?
Normally up before 5am, I meditate and then head to the gym. I still do a bit of personal training & nutrition coaching. After my clients, I train myself and fumble through my gymnastics routine.
By 11, I am usually parked at a local cafe with the laptop ready to go.
With a new startup, it’s a constant battle as there are 1000 things you could be doing. I try, but don’t always succeed, in devoting big blocks of time focused on either content creation such as blogs or videos, business development or product development and research.
I also make sure I listen to at least one podcast a day, but often more. With all of the commuting I do, this is really easy to do.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business?
I have faced two distinct challenges that went hand in hand – simplifying the offering and on-boarding trial users.
I was on a call with a business coach who has extensive experience with SaaS products and he asked me to pitch him. I did, and his response was “man, that sucked”. I was vague, I was trying to solve too many problems at once and as a result I was solving none. That meant the marketing & on-boarding process were confusing and had very low conversion rates.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but the moment I cut the fat, removed some features and defined the one single problem Trainer Pulse solved, the marketing instantly had better returns and we converted more users.
What people or companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
Take away the flashy stuff like handstands, they are focused on natural human movement and just getting people to move better.
If over 10 years of coaching has taught me anything it’s that it’s amazing how much better people feel when they can move a bit better. For example, when someone touches their toes for the first time in years or sits in the bottom of a squat without pain.
The people I mentioned earlier are doing a great job at spreading the message, but society as a whole needs to take this more seriously. Our sedentary lifestyles are literally killing us and prioritising movement is a key part in reversing this trend.
People who say “I don’t like moving or exercising” is the equivalent of a dolphin not wanting to come up for air. Whether you like it or not, we are designed to move.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I love the emergence of the consumer to consumer economy, think Uber & Air BNB. I can’t wait to see how it evolves as people continue to embrace it. How great is it hearing about your Uber driver’s story, that just doesn’t happen with a normal taxi!
What I like most is that random people are actually connecting & doing business with each other again, instead of a faceless company.
Can we lend money to each other instead of using banks?
Can we lend cars to each other instead of producing more?
Can we give our surplus food to the homeless instead of throwing it out?
I am not sure how far we can take it but I am all for this new movement.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
Mental health is something which needs more attention.
What is the one habit that has changed your life?
Without a doubt listening to podcasts.
I truly believe you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around. Listening to podcasts is like cheating the system.
You can surround yourself with some of the world’s best and biggest thinkers for FREE, it’s actually ridiculous. I can’t recommend them enough.
Can you recommend 3 books you think everyone should read?
1. Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins – for goal setting
2. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss – for thinking outside of the box
3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – for an operating system for your life.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
Sure, there are a couple of ways. I would love to connect with anyone in the fitness space who works with fitness professionals and wants to keep them in the industry longer and help make them more successful. People in gyms, marketers who specialise in working with Fit Pros and anyone who shares the same vision as Trainer Pulse.
Alternatively, if you can help or want to get involved in helping me launch the 1 million kilogram challenge, it would be great if you could email me so we can chat more.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other.
If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?
If you were going to launch a nationwide challenge and wanted the most amount of engagement & coverage, what would you do?
What’s your favourite restaurant and café?