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Q&A: P90X Creator Reveals How He Built His Fitness Empire

Carl Daikeler gives us some inside info on how he got his business off the ground, and how you can do the same.

Carl Daikeler
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In his 30s, Carl Daikeler knew his crappy eating habits and disdain for exercise needed to change. So, in 1998, he created Beachbody—the company responsible for at-home DVD workouts like P90X and Insanity—which now rakes in more than a billion dollars per year in sales. We spoke to Daikeler about finding success, industry pet peeves, and tips for entrepreneurs.

M&F: It took you 22 infomercial launches before P90X became a hit. What kept you going?

CD: Because each time we would test it, we would see a little improvement. We were looking for a sweet spot based on who the demand was coming from. There was a group of people who started to send in their results, and they were stunning.
The more results we got in, the more we would refine the infomercial. By 2007, the thing just took off, and we hit that sweet spot.

How do you select the right trainer for your programs?

We try to find the one with the right personality for our concept. Here’s a good story about that: I had this idea for the hardest workout ever, called Insanity. Shaun T, who had done our Hip Hop Abs program, heard about my idea and was like, “I want to do that one.” I said, “You’re the dance guy; you’re totally wrong for this.” Well, I let him audition, and he put together this 15-minute demo with two other trainers. With just three minutes left, both of the trainers had to lie down. One of them was so pissed off that he threw his water bottle against the wall, and Shaun said, “I’m just going to finish it myself!” I hired him, and that turned out to be our second billion-dollar product.

Suck it Up: Daikeler still hits it hard five times per week, despite not having an affinity for exercise.

What is Beachbody’s mission?

To help people achieve healthy and fulfilling lives. And our philosophy behind that is that there is no philosophy—the philosophy that works is the one that works for you, and our job is to listen to the customer and create a program that works for them. And until we’ve done that, we’ve failed.

What do you like least about the fitness industry?

I’ve seen celebrity trainers who get famous on reality TV shows, and then they put their face on stuff that they know doesn’t work. It’s stunning to me. They have the power to influence people to have healthier behaviors, behaviors that they know work, and instead they push something that isn’t the answer.

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Most people would say never give up, but I think that’s too superficial. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, and figure out what problems you have the expertise to solve. Then, once you’ve identified the market, never quit.

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