Challenges of Building in Public

Challenges of Building in Public

Building in public is a tough game to keep up.

Starting and sustaining a new business takes tremendous effort, and my emotions frequently swing between positive and negative.

Do you know the best thing about startups?…   You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror.  — Marc Andreessen

It is easy to want to write updates after a record-beating month, but much more difficult after facing the uncertainty of closing down one location and opening up a new one focused on a different target customer (see our recent pivot build-in-public post here).

The reality of all businesses is that there are always struggles and missteps along the path to success. I do my best to use these struggles to turn them into learnings and adjust past actions and strategies to find real, sustainable success along the journey. This trial-and-error process should be celebrated along the way but is often hidden out of fear and embarrassment.

My mindfulness practice has helped me stay realistic, focused, and excited during the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Understanding and, more importantly, experiencing impermanence, the idea that nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever, has taught me how important it is to focus on the process and improve every day regardless of the short-term wins or losses constantly occurring. Building in public helps keep my focus on enjoying and noticing the process (aka, being in the moment).

Taking the build-in-public plunge means telling the bad with the good, as close to real-time as possible, instead of waiting until all of the unknown and unfortunate is over to report the success story on the other side of uncertainty mountain (or staying silent forever because the business never made it to the summit).

The Matterhorn (not at Disneyland) is uncertainty mountain in this example
The Matterhorn (not at Disneyland) is uncertainty mountain in this example

It has been a long journey (~4 years, 2 locations, ~200 customers) to get Maverick to this moment where we identified the exact customer we can uniquely help and who is also an excellent partner to build a sustainable business on. Our new model perfectly intersects with our (co-founders Michael, me, + Christian) passions and a unique niche that no one else is serving: building a community of the top 1% of independent performance-based physical therapists and trainers. And we have a business model that is completely aligned, which is a rarity in the fitness and health space. Maverick is only successful if our customers (the physical therapists and trainers) are successful. While we’re still in the infancy of our business (1st inning), we’ve had strong enough initial traction that we feel we’re in a position where there is a real inevitability to our success as long as we stay true to our mission of serving this focused group.

The build-in-public concept has been a healthy exercise for Christian and me because it forces us to talk deeply through our thoughts and publicly show what is working and what is not. Writing down results, thoughts, and ideas leads to clearer thinking and strategy. It also helps us communicate our story better to our friends, family, customers, and investors.

The build-in-public concept also helps us spread the word about what we’re doing. Our biggest challenge is reaching the top physical therapists and performance specialists because, primarily, the most successful fitness and health professionals are making their money in-person and are purposely offline. All of our customers have come from existing customers and word-of-mouth warm intros. We need more customers to get more customers and expand our network, and we’re hopeful that continuing to write content that top professionals identify with will help us continue to grow our community organically.

On the flip side, there is some talk about the downsides of building in public. I’m a big fan of David Senra of Founders Podcast, and he often quotes Biggie, “Don’t you know bad boys move in silence,” to bring up that successful entrepreneurs keep their success to themselves to avoid helping competitors. While I acknowledge the risk of sharing years’ worth of learnings with potential competitors, we firmly believe there is a lot more good than bad that can come from sharing the ins and outs of our business.

At the end of the day, our business, Maverick Community, is just an idea. Someone can copy our buildout, equipment, pricing structure, commitment to give equity to our customers, branding, etc., but they can’t copy-paste the idea and corresponding hard work, execution, and authenticity that has allowed us to build our unique community. Our DNA and our culture can’t be copied.

Our strict commitment to the idea that there are like-minded fitness and health professionals with the same particular likes and dislikes as us has enabled us to build a strong community that trusts and loves our brand and its fellow community members. The community of very specific people can’t be replicated easily, even with unlimited dollars.

Building a real community takes time, a lot of effort, listening, executing a focused strategy, a commitment, and relationship and trust building. You don’t create our unique community by convincing people to join. We’ve created something special by offering so many benefits for our customers that they want to be Mavericks because we really benefit their lives for the long term (not momentary satisfaction). And there are compounding effects. The more our community grows with incredible people, the stronger and more defensible it becomes.

I end this piece by asking you, mr/mrs reader, to share this content with others in your network who could be interested in Maverick. I’m talking about the game-changing in-person fitness and health providers (physical therapists, trainers, performance specialists, coaches, etc.) who have changed your life at one point or another.

Thank you!