Early one morning several years ago, I stood in an asphalt parking lot with about 30 guys all over 40 years old, attempting to respond to the commands of a very fit-looking chap who was in charge of warming us up. We were in Riverside, Calif., for team-building exercises designed through a series of paintball games. While many had been out late the night before, the luxury bus ride provided ample space to sleep, along with hearty food and drink to comfort the troops. This group was clearly not prepared, nor particularly fit enough, for what the drill sergeant was doling out.
As the day and paintball stings wore on, I came to learn that the guy, Alden Mills, was an ex-Navy Seal who had high hopes for launching a fitness product. Given my background, several folks recommended that we be introduced.
Perhaps it is indicative of the type of individual who becomes a Navy Seal, but this was somebody determined to bring his product to the market no matter what obstacles stood in his way. In my own fitness business, I was forced to learn the hard way that I was not the customer, which led me to have reservations about the viability of "The Body Rev." However, if it is true that people buy people, I did buy in to this guy.
As such, I assembled a group of potential investors to hear Alden's story. He presented the product, defined how much money he was looking for, and what the payoff could be if his plan was properly executed. Suffice it to say that Mount Rushmore shows more expression than these fellows did at the end of his pitch. Sensing this, Alden went for what might have seemed like a Hail Mary pass - he pulled two paddles from his gym bag for a product demonstration. As he did his "push ups" and talked up the opportunity, he was looking to change the energy in the room and perhaps the likely outcome. Alden had no such luck.
As we broke that day, I heard him say that he had studied customers, and he knew his products and solutions could impact our sedentary and unhealthy population segments. He said it was his life's calling.
Like all successful entrepreneurs, he did not retreat in the face of defeat. He cobbled together all the money he had left and created an infomercial for the "Perfect Pushup." It worked, and the company took off like a rocket ship. While I had lost track of Alden over the years, his television spots were a friendly reminder of the man and his dream.
Recently reconnecting with Alden has been inspiring, as he has shared the trials of how the economic crisis has tested his business and strength like no other time in his career. And, no doubt his "Seal" training has served him well, as he may now have a stronger company than at any time since inception.
These guys at "Perfect" bring simple movements into the lives of people who need physical activity and exercise. And while he, his company and his team have won many great accolades, this proud father of four boys will tell you that life is about living your purpose. He says that one day he may look back and think about things he might have done differently, but he refuses to look back with regret for what he did not do with his life.
For all of us who have struggled with building a business, looking after family and maintaining our own health needs, I single out Alden as a person who has come close to finding the formula. And, I think we all benefit from the journey taken by many of our peers and colleagues. It is good to know that in our quest to help make the world a healthier place, we can draw strength from others when ours may be in short supply.