The Next Leap

The ‘why’ of my company

I’m envious of other companies, ecommerce and otherwise, that have a clear “why?” It’s easy to read Simon Sinek’s book, “Start With Why,” or watch his YouTube video. But it’s been difficult to implement his ideas into FringeSport. Sinek believes that consumers want to know why you do something, followed by how you do it, followed by what it is.

Consider Apple, for example. People might purchase Apple products because it shows that they “Think different,” to cite Apple’s famous ad campaign. Then they may be impressed by how Apple operates — beautiful design, high prices. Then comes the what: a computer or a phone.

I’ve struggled with this concept since launching FringeSport in 2010. I’m interested in how other companies determine their whys. My friend Eric Bandholz, the founder of Beardbrand, has a sincere and even cool why — helping men improve their appearance and confidence. The why for other companies, however, often appears insincere — only to generate more sales.

Thus I’m conflicted about Sinek’s ideas. Why have a “why?”

FringeSport’s ‘why’

But here’s the story of FringeSport’s why and how it has evolved.

When I started Fringe, my why was focused on me. I desired to assist customers, but, really, I wanted something. I wanted to start a business so that I could be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be self-employed. I wanted to own the fruits of my labor.

I had analyzed the market and identified a niche, fitness equipment. I had the idea, from the start, to provide great products at great prices and back them with world-class service. At the time, that was my why — great products at great prices with world-class customer service. But that doesn’t include the words “fitness equipment.” It doesn’t say we make people stronger and healthier. It’s generic, even though I still believe it.

Fast-forward about two years to roughly 2012. I evolved. I thought our why was to help CrossFit gyms obtain better equipment at affordable prices. I still believed in the original mantra: great products at great prices with world-class customer service. But I thought that our primary customers should be crossfitters and CrossFit gyms. We needed to serve them.

This went well for a while. But it wasn’t satisfying. I knew there was something else. I started talking to more of our customers, and that brings me to where we were about five years into the FringeSport journey.

Garage gyms

About five years in, I realized suddenly that most of our customers were buying our products and building garage gyms. This was a beautiful thing. I had built a garage gym early in my strength and conditioning career. I dismantled that gym to found Fringe. I loved garage gyms and the people that use them. I knew how to help those consumers better than anyone.

Thus our why became to help people build amazing garage gyms. And according to Simon Sinek, it’s much closer to a real why. At first, my why focused on me. Then the why focused on what: great barbells at a great price with world-class service. I did somewhat focus on the how: making it easy and convenient for our customers to get these products. But I wasn’t at all focused on the why.

With the revelation about garage gyms, we could focus on the why and then worry about the how and the what.

  • Why is FringeSport here? To help our clients build amazing garage gyms.
  • How? By providing great products at great prices with world-class service.
  • What? An awesome barbell, great bumper plates, a wonderful kettlebell.

We continued with this why for a number of years — producing content, resources, and trying to help people build garage gyms. But now we’ve been pivoting, again. We’ve identified a problem with the whole garage gym idea. People who are building garage gyms are only a small majority of our customers. We have many other customers who don’t have garage gyms. We risk ignoring those other clients.

The new ‘why’

Now we’re again searching for our why. We’re working on it, finding something that fits. In the early days, the why was self-centered on what I wanted. It did not scale. As we grew, the why moved outside of me, but it was still not refined. We got closer when we moved into the garage gyms.

We now realize that everything we’ve done since the early days has been around strength and been making people better through strength. That’s our focus now. We’re still in the early days of this new pivot — our new why. It will end up revolving around making people stronger so that they can live better, healthier lives. That will be our new why.

Our how will continue to be producing great products at great prices with world-class service. Our what will remain similar: world-class strength conditioning gear.

As we get closer, I’ll provide an update.

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