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We are working with Again, Faster in their search for a COO based in Boston, MA. This is one of the coolest COO jobs around: Again Faster, founded in 2006, is a rapidly-growing provider of fitness equipment and media to the functional fitness industry. The team is small, agile, and close-knit, and the firm seeks a good cultural fit to lead the continuous improvement of its finance and operations functions.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Imagine a company that started in a one-bedroom apartment with $300 in seed capital to $12 million in rolling revenue in less than eight years. Imagine this company serving 45,000 customers on 6 continents, with thousands more entering the pipeline everyday on a global basis.

The company, Again Faster Equipment, was started in 2006, and is growing 50% plus year-over-year, a benchmark they’ve hit for eight straight years. Their growth is tied directly to the success of CrossFit, as Again Faster was created specifically to meet the needs of CrossFit athletes, coaches, and gym owners.

Again Faster’s story is tightly intertwined with CrossFit’s story, and to understand Again Faster you will need to first understand CrossFit – which has become one of the most respected names in high-intensity functional fitness. You can’t really apply for this role without first watching this video.

CrossFit was founded by Greg Glassman in a garage in 1974. It has expanded globally through a unique business model, spawning 7,000 non-franchised Affiliates, over half a million adherents worldwide, and a Reebok-sponsored sport that appears on ESPN and garners its champions a $250k podium check.

CrossFitters complete daily workouts posted on the company’s website or workouts prescribed by a coach at a local affiliate. The first CrossFit studio opened around 2000, and its first affiliate opened in 2004.

Cynics might think that the CrossFit is a fad with 90 days of room left to run. That’s anything but the case. CrossFit has gone from 0 affiliates to more than 7000 in the last 8 years. For all of those independent businesses to be viable, not only does the economic model need to work, but also the underlying product must be highly effective.

When one looks at CrossFit’s primary competitors, the first thing one notices is that both competitors’ (Insanity and P90X) marketing is powered by infomercials. Take away the infomercials and sales plummet. CrossFit, on the other hand, is marketed through independent businesses. Quite powerfully, these operators aren’t franchisees, but individual operators who support is primarily grassroots oriented.

These individual operators are made up of people like Jon Gilson.

In 2005, Gilson was a bank teller in Boston who read about the effectiveness of CrossFit workouts. After visiting a local CrossFit box, Gilson became addicted to the CrossFit regimen and eventually began training CrossFit enthusiasts in a local Boston Park. After inventing a portable pull-up bar for use during the workouts, Gilson began selling it throughout the CrossFit community. Soon after, he began producing CrossFit videos for the community, and was eventually, obtained a drop-ship dealership for dozens of other products, concentrating the buying power of the fledgling community.

At that point, Gilson founded Again Faster.

Again Faster makes its revenue on the sale of hard goods, with a small (but growing) selection of digital products across mobile platforms. Although Again Faster’s primary customers are CrossFitters, the firm also sells to commercial gyms, home practitioners, and personal trainers. According to IBIS World there are approximately 56,000 personal trainers in the United States with combined revenues of $9.4 billion. Currently, an estimated 6.5 million Americans use personal training services, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

Additionally, Again Faster sells to institutions of higher learning and corporations, many of which are starting to realize the impact CrossFit can have on employee performance and morale.

Having said that …

Again Faster’s growth and financial success are in many ways the least interesting aspect of their story. The company is a tight-knit family of CrossFit devotees who see their job as “teaching athletes to move, teaching coaches to coach, and teaching coaches to run small businesses.” Again Faster provides the spectrum of tools and education that these coaches need to be successful in their own businesses.

According to Gilson, “It’s all about selling hard goods plus the educational opportunity. We do that on a global basis. We have phenomenal brand recognition. Additionally, we greatly value the intelligence of our people. We carefully select the caliber of individual who works for our firm. It’s not necessarily about experience, but energy, drive, and intellectual curiosity.”

“The job you’re doing today might not be the job you’re doing in 8 months. We want people who have great intangible skills. We have very deep expertise in the CrossFit methodology: We have 8 years experience traveling the world talking about CrossFit and learning about the Affiliate business. It’s very hard to knock off this advantage. Our people have an unrivaled understanding of the customer’s problems – and opportunities.”

“Additionally, we have an international footprint. This is a great strength, and it’s the one with the most upside potential. The potential for the customer base outside the United States dwarfs the US opportunity. Our balance sheet is strong, and access to capital is great, and we just recently launched another million-dollar export line. We can be fairly lean cash flow wise because we are growing so much, but we are not hand to mouth.”

All online retailers would be well advised to take a close look at how this company treats its customers and the care it takes in preserving the culture that nourishes the company’s meaning. Check out the following video with the Again Faster Business Panel, chaired by Gilson. Their “customer first” philosophy is a central part of who they are, and that informs what they do. Again Faster has six sales reps, all trained as business consultants. They know the product inside and out, but their main value is their ability to help CrossFit Affiliate operators grow their businesses profitably. According to Gilson, “We do very little selling, and an awful lot of advising.” Like so …

WANTED: A financially-oriented Operations executive (not the other way around):

The COO role is all about optimizing the firm’s capital structure while “making the trains run on time.” Currently, Again Faster has a very strong balance sheet and their access to tier-one capital is great. Current management understands how to run lean, even though it’s not necessary to fuel the company’s growth.

As COO, you will need to improve the automation of the business, which currently deploys legacy systems that were acquired when the company was much smaller. Although these legacy systems are scalable, and the company would like to have better forecasting capability to manage spikes and dips in demand: Too little inventory and Again Faster’s service-level declines. Too much inventory, and the firm’s cash flow goes down. Essentially this is a financial problem with an operations solution.

Beyond the issue of legacy systems, Again Faster requires a highly optimized global supply chain with improved management of both domestic and internationally held inventory. Projects like this will impact Again Faster’s greater need for financial analysis and the formulation of a strategy for improving the P&L. Tighter inventory management and improved sales velocity will improve gross margins.

We have nearly a dozen pages of notes regarding the client’s COO project queue, which will include functions such as Content Management Systems; CRM; Customer Care; Ecommerce Platform; International Ecommerce; and Logistics. And that’s just what’s pending.

Should you apply for the job? Ask yourself …

  1. Can you create a strategic plan against a far-flung supply chain?
  2. Do you have deep experience in financial reporting, and can you accurately cut several days out of the financial closing process?
  3. Can you understand how accounting systems an operation systems will impact ecommerce platform selection, and have the ability to align with the Director of Ecommerce to manage a platform integration without missing a beat?

Finally, it’s worth noting that Again Faster needs a solid business leader who is very sensitive to the human element of running a business. The company has a fantastic team with excellent chemistry. Therefore, it’s essential that you like the team and fit with them such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Again, Faster’s new COO will be highly competent, quick thinking, and able to tackle a wide variety of tasks with aplomb. S/he will have extensive experience implementing corporate strategy in high-growth business situations and desires an environment that rewards risk-taking and independent thinking. As a critical position in a small, receptive management team, reporting directly to the CEO and Board of Directors, the COO function holds tremendous potential for professional growth.

Responsibilities of this individual will include:

  • Oversee the global operations of Again Faster, with a relentless focus on delivering a superior customer experience, improving internal systems, delivering on financial targets and driving global growth of the business
  • Oversee the capital structure of Again Faster, monitoring and improving financial position, and ensuring ample capital for rapid domestic and international growth
  • Manage the end-to-end supply chain, with direct oversight of inventory management, 3PL warehouse operations, qualified vendor recruiting, and global order fulfillment
  • Lead continuous improvement of financial and operations processes across the entire business, including international operations
  • Lead negotiations with suppliers and customers to optimize cash flow
  • Oversee budget, control, and audit functions
  • Produce regular reporting on all key business metrics, including analysis and ownership of subsequent action planning
  • Implement ERP system overhaul to increase operations staff productivity, enhance data visibility and simplify processes

The ideal candidate will have deep managerial experience in entrepreneurial environments, with a history of successful outcomes. He or she is prepared to act autonomously with a high degree of latitude. Required experience includes:

  • 10+ years of finance and operations experience, with direct responsibility for financial performance, inventory and supply chain management, and IT systems implementation
  • Ecommerce experience highly preferred
  • Deep quantitative and analytical skills with advanced Excel experience; comfort in mining and manipulating data for business insight
  • Proven ability to drive multiple projects and initiatives simultaneously, in a high-growth business environment

Applications for this position are being coordinated by Harry Joiner. To apply, CLICK HERECandidates, please be sure to email Harry for a packet of market research and company / competitive intel that will differentiate you in your candidacy. Due to the intensely competitive nature of this search, thorough preparation for these interviews with this proprietary material is strongly recommended.

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