Do you need inspiration and motivation on turning your idea into an actual product or service? In this series, Johnny G explains the process he went through when he took his single idea into an international movement.Sign Up to Watch
JOHNNY G.You can't sit down and my product today is going to go global. What you do is you take it to say, how many people are going to love my product in my circle.
CLAY CLARK: All right Johnny, today we are talking about the catalyst-- starting and international business and movement. And I am so excited because you started this movement, which I'm going to let you share how you would describe it, but the spinning movement, at its peak, there was between five an eight million people a day fellowshipping with you, communing with you, joining with you in improving their health, improving their minds, improving their bodies. But describe to me what spinning was at its peak in your mind.
JOHNNY G: I started off as a kid at five years old doing this on a bicycle. My first love was a bike. I wanted to share the bicycle as I grew older with everybody I met. This was my passion. It was my hobby. It was my everything. It was my life. By the time I finished racing it's a professional athlete, I wanted to have that opportunity where I could take care of my family, I could take care of myself, and I could share the wisdom that I've learned from the sport of cycling.
So when I made this stationary bike, which helped me my racing career, and it helped me in my life career, and it got me fit and healthy, the next part started where, how was I going to develop principles and a training program that I could share in 40 minutes, a workout, that would get people fit and healthy around the world. The one thing about the tool, the bicycle, it transcends barriers. It transcends language. The bike is a bike. This was a good thing.
So I actually started to sit down and think deeply, how could I take the bicycle, translate this bicycle, into different languages-- music, teachers, rhythm, all the fundamentals-- this sweat, the room, the environment, the manufacturer. So what I did was I went and I built a prototype. From this prototype I designed programming. The programming then took on a nature and an animal within itself.
I needed a name. What was this going to be called? I came up with this name, spinning. Spinning was a movement that cyclists would do on the road. It wasn't spinning like a top. It was taking your legs and spinning out a big gear, going up mountains and spinning through them, making difficult obstacles disappear.
This program spinning now became something that I was really passionate about. At the time I was so passionate about it, I would go to sleep with it. I had a spinning bike in my room. I would wake up with it. I would get on it. I would play on it. I would spend time and time and time-- this became contagious.
I brought friends in to try it. My friends started to love it. As my friends started to love it, I brought my family in to try it. My family started to love it. I now knew that I had something important.
CLAY CLARK: Did you ever think it would get that big?
JOHNNY G: No I didn't.
CLAY CLARK: It just blew you away.
JOHNNY G: It blew me away. Because if you think about a product that goes global, you can't sit down and say, my product today is going to go global. What you do is you take it and you say, how many people are going to love my product in my circle? And could this circle expand? And if this circle could expand, how many people in the expanded circle would love their product?
And I kept thinking of these little circles. And as I thought of these little circles, the next step was, how could I mobilize people in each circle? And that may have been in Brazil, that may have been in Japan, that meant being in the UK, and all the states across America. So this became a wonderful, wonderful trick to be able to figure out the mechanics of what would happen in a small circle, and how the circle could get duplicated and still have the essence and the truth behind it. And before we knew it, within two years at our second trade show, it went into a thousand health clubs.
CLAY CLARK: How do products solve a personal problem for you? You mentioned it solved a personal problem for you. How did it solve a personal problem as terms of-- you mentioned with your pro cycling career, that inventing this device helped you personally.
JOHNNY G: There were two things. The first thing was my wife was pregnant. And instead of training on the road and being away from the house for these long periods of time, I was doing about 40 to 60 hours a week on the road.
CLAY CLARK: 40 to 60 a week?
JOHNNY G: Yeah, that's a big day at the office, 40 to 60 hours a week.
CLAY CLARK: 40 to 60 a week?
JOHNNY G: I mean if you calculate, it's 12 hours on a Tuesday, 12 hours on a Thursday, leaving the house at 6:00, coming back at 6:00, leaving on a Thursday at 6:00, coming back at 6:00, Friday night till Saturday night, through the night, 24 hour.
CLAY CLARK: How many years did you do this before you decided, you know what, I should probably be doing this in my living room?
JOHNNY G: Four and 1/2.
CLAY CLARK: Four and 1/2 years you were doing this?
JOHNNY G: Yeah.
CLAY CLARK: You were going with that crazy schedule?
JOHNNY G: That's right. But how many entrepreneurs-- I mean you were talking about your schedule.
CLAY CLARK: Yeah.
JOHNNY G: Your schedule is as crazy, but it's just in a different format.
CLAY CLARK: Hey all I'm-- I'm just saying this because there's a lot of people watching this who, we want to be an entrepreneur, we want to be a leader, we want to be, but some of the time trade-offs, we're not realizing how much--
JOHNNY G: Time it takes. It takes a lot of time and energy. And then you have to shuffle and balance between that and your personal life.
CLAY CLARK: And you wanted to have--
JOHNNY G: And your own life. There's business life, there's your life, and there's the life of your family. It's like sort of three lives.
CLAY CLARK: Because you want to have a great relationship with your wife, and with your family, and with your kids, with your-- the whole thing. And so you brought this into the living room?
JOHNNY G: I brought it into the garage.
CLAY CLARK: The garage?
JOHNNY G: And it was in the garage, and my wife was inside, and my wife would go to sleep peacefully because she knew I wasn't on the road for 24 hours during the night pushing myself, and I was at home and I was safe.
CLAY CLARK: So walk me through the process of turning this idea that you could practice in your garage, into turning it into an actual product. What was that process like?
JOHNNY G: It was a big process because when I started, I had to deal with myself. And that was a tough one. Because with the way our grew up in South Africa, I was privileged in one respect, but still had all the other dragons that I had to deal with.
So when I got onto the bicycle, I was healing dragons within myself as I was getting fit and healthy. So as I was dealing with the dragons and I was getting fit and healthy, I started to focus and channel my energy and look at what the opportunity would look like.
CLAY CLARK: What were the biggest roadblocks that you faced? A lot of entrepreneurs are going to face road-- most every entrepreneur's going to face roadblocks along the way. Who were the biggest roadblocks that you faced?
JOHNNY G: Trying to find a manufacturer.
CLAY CLARK: Really?
JOHNNY G: And trying to find the funding to be able to make the prototypes to go to the manufacturer. And when I called Schwinn, the biggest cycling company in the world, and said I had a great idea to teach exercise classes on a stationary bike, they said, well that's why we make stationary bikes for people like you to buy them. That was a tough one.
CLAY CLARK: Schwinn.
JOHNNY G: But I went back to Schwinn, four years later, and said I will sign the contract. They showed up at my living room one night with a knock on the door. See what happened was I decided to get my own bikes. I learned from that. I actually did buy a couple of Schwinn bikes, and I put them in my garage, and I invited people to come and play on these Schwinn bikes. So they actually gave me the idea.
I then went and built the first prototype. These classes became so successful, we opened up our first dojo with 20 bikes in them, and they were Schwinn bikes. But the bikes kept breaking down. So I built a prototype. Then what happened was Schwinn heard through the grapevine that there was a cycling class happening on bicycles that was becoming the talk of the town. It was on the television. It was in the newspapers. The celebrities were coming to take these classes. And it was becoming an underground rage.
CLAY CLARK: Now are you a welder by trade? Or how did you make a prototype? What did you do, any metal worker?
JOHNNY G: No.
CLAY CLARK: How did you do it?
I met a friend of mine, and I said, here's the geometry, this is what I'm looking at, these are some of the tweaks. Do you think you could make this for me? And he went to work, and he started to come up with some of the concepts that I had. These concepts were based around my real road racing bike. And when I figured out that people had been sitting on a stationary bike for a lifetime-- they never stood out of the saddle, they never moved from side to side, they didn't have water bottles on the bikes at that stage, I was on to something special.
-Now this is a really-- this is like a ninja question. This is a question where-- it's a tough one. Because the question I have is, what was the most challenging part of developing the product while trying to develop your physical body. Because that you're big into life balance, and into your physical balance, and into health.
JOHNNY G: Right.
-But you also had to put all these hours into developing this product and this prototype. I guess, what was the most difficult part of trying to do both, or how did you do that?
-The beginning was easy. The beginning wasn't a problem. Because I needed a tool to train on. It's like, I made the sword to practice in the garden. Where it became tricky, and where it became more challenging, was when I had to get a bunch of them into this set up, that I saw the program happening. Now I needed some funding to make a bunch of them.
-So what advice would you give an entrepreneur who's maybe at this stage, where they go, I've got a product, I got a prototype that I'm working on, or one I've just finished, and they're about ready to try to go get funding. What does that process look like? I mean, trying to get funding. Is it just awful?
-It's such a big process.
CLAY CLARK: Really?
-For anybody doing that, you know what it is. You're right here, right now. It's a big project, it's a tough project. You need a lot of attributes like courage, determination, thick skin, insurance, fortitude, belief. You got to believe in what you're doing, and you need context. You're going to jump into your own industry. You've got to make this really new industry. They're all private equity firms, and they people that are out there that raise money, but I found there to be quite a difficult part. The money that I've always found has come from somebody very close to what the activity is.
-How long did it take you to raise funding? I remember the question-- How long did it take you from the idea of the initial [SINGS HIGH NOTE] I-want-to-do-this moment, all the way until the boom, it's in the stores, people are buying it, it's an international sensation. How long was that?
-Well, the idea started '87, '89 began, '92 first prototype, '95 first launch, and then '97 was the first check. And that check was a very important check.
CLAY CLARK: Why was it very important to you?
-Well, there were two parts to it. One, I could stop personal training at the same time. I was running 8 clients a day.
CLAY CLARK: While doing this.
-While doing this. So my day started at 4:00 AM, I got on the bike till 6:00, then my first client started at 6:00. And I went every hour till 10:00, and then I picked up again at 2:00 to 6:00, came home, ate dinner. And then it was the evening hours. So in between, this is the nature of the beast again, there's not a lot of time. But what I did figure out which saved me, there was a formula. That the 24 hours in the day, and that's 168 hours in a week. And if you've got 168 hours in a week, and you sleep for six of those hours a night, 6 times 7 gives you, how many hours?
CLAY CLARK: 6 times 7, you said?
CLAY CLARK: 42.
-So you got 42 hours to sleep from 168, that leaves you a bit of family time. That leaves you about 120 hours. So if you're working a 40-hour week that gives you about another 60 hours out there. So it depends if you're working on a 12-hour schedule or a 24-hour schedule. You see at the time, I worked on a 24-hour schedule.
And that was the difference between me and my mates. While my mates were sleeping and not using their time effectively, I was running the rivet of going napping at different times. So my off switch was a bit different to other people's off switch.
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