Flywheel CEO says to expand at customers’ pace

This undated photo provided by Flywheel shows Sarah Robb O'Hagan, CEO of Flywheel Sports. Hagan recently sat down with The Associated Press. The company is now expanding to other types of workouts and an on-demand service for those who can’t make it to one of the company’s locations. (Aviva Klein/Flywheel via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — In “Pass It On,” AP beat reporters ask executives to share experiences and insights that will resonate with anyone managing a business.

Sarah Robb O’Hagan , CEO of Flywheel Sports, recently sat down with The Associated Press. The indoor cycling company is known for adding technology to workouts. Cyclists compare their workout to others in the class on large screens in the workout studios. The company is now expanding to other types of workouts and an on-demand service for those who can’t make it to one of the company’s locations.

Q: What defines your company?

A: We’re all about fitness. We talk about this notion of working hard to play harder. So people who come and workout with us are not kind of getting off the couch. They’re like: I’m all in, and I want to do this because I want to play hard in my life and get the most out of my life.

Q: What’s your advice for someone starting out a business?

A: Really personally understand the consumer problem that you are trying to solve. Don’t just see analytically through some study that this is an opportunity. Make sure it’s something that you personally deeply care about. You’re going to have to make decisions every day that cannot be informed by data. A lot of it has to be instinctual. If you are someone who is the consumer, you have so much more chance of really following your own gut.

Q: How do you get to understand your customers?

A: Well I’m in the fitness business, so I sweat with my customers. I literally get out there and work out. I ride with them and I chat in the locker room.

Q: You’ve been fired more than once?

A: I’ve been fired twice actually. I’m pretty proud of that. What I learned from those experiences, more than anything, was a giant dose of humility, recognizing that you’re only as good as what you’re doing today. And secondly I think a really big sense of grit and resilience and that you can come back from something like that and you will actually be a better executive because you’ve learned from your mistakes.

Q: How do you find the right pace for expansion?

A: You can only expand as fast as the consumer will let you. So you always want to have big ideas to really rally a team around and a vision that they can see where they’re going. But the consumer will only move as fast as they’re willing to go. And you have to be very mindful of that as you execute.

Q: Where do you find your best workers?

A: I find talented employees everywhere. It is not in like just scanning LinkedIn and looking for great business school credentials. It’s people who are passionate about my business, who I see riding in the studio, who are interested that I think hey they can be a great employee.

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