Robin Young is the founder and CEO of Fitness Savvy – a UK-based fitness information and price comparison website. As a passionate fitness expert, Robin has also started a YouTube channel where he shares innovative fitness ideas and strategies and is currently funding his own studies to prove the new ways of training he is pioneering. His main aim is to improve how men train for bodybuilding to make it safer, more enjoyable and with better results.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Robin Young: My name is Robin, and I quit my job as CFO for a UK-based distribution company in 2017 to start up Fitness Savvy. While the main revenue driver is commission earned through product reviews and price comparison, I have spent several years experimenting with new ways of training for bodybuilding to challenge the way in which it is currently done.
In line with this, I have also started a YouTube channel which I am looking to push hard through 2022 and will also fund studies into new theories about bodybuilding to start conversations about my ideas.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Robin Young: I believe this question is similar to the often asked question about sociopaths – are they born or made, and I think the answer is also the same. I would say that the most successful entrepreneurs are born with genetic traits which make them more cut out for this kind of job – perhaps things like vivid imagination, obsession with numbers or finer details, or passion to win. In my case, I have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and my genetic traits include some of the ones above.
However, the environment in which the person grows is going to have a huge impact. For those in poorer environments, there might not be the support to nurture these traits and help guide the person towards the top of the corporate ladder – and conversely, someone born into money might not feel the need to bother working so hard. Another idea is that the urge to win can even bring someone from a poor background up the ladder because they have the ideas and passion to do so. So I believe a combination of the traits we are born with and the environment we grow up in both play a part.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Robin Young: As an entrepreneur, I look to challenge the norm and bring about new ideas. I am already the guy whose radical ideas are kind of laughed at. My job is to take the dismissal on the chin and continue moving towards proving my ideas, making these ideas the benchmark for bodybuilding, and developing a successful fitness brand based on these ideas
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Robin Young: I set up Fitness Savvy as a price comparison site in 2017. During the years I have run the company, I was also testing out new workout theories in the gym and getting regular DEXA body scans to measure changes to my fat and muscle levels. As a price comparison site, commissions are low, and so advertising and building a brand is difficult without a large cash injection, so I have worked for a few years as a solopreneur – hiring freelancers to help me develop my website and grow the income.
One of the frustrating things is that the business is at the mercy of Google algorithm updates. 70% of traffic comes from search results, and luckily for us, we reached number 1 in 2020 for “cheap weight sets” in the UK right when the government shut gyms due to Covid.
Sale soared and I suddenly had a cash injection. While this was great, 3 negatives shortly followed – firstly, our search engine rankings plummeted; secondly everywhere ran out of stock of fitness products for several months, and lastly some of our biggest partners decided to shut their affiliate program – I guess they decided they didn’t need affiliates any more due to how much money they had made, and were probably sick at how much they had to pay out to their affiliate partners.
I used a chunk of the cash to invest in 6k video-making equipment, and so far, it looks like the Fitness Savvy channel is the only fitness channel to be creating and uploading videos in 6k – a resolution most people are not even watching in yet. My focus has moved from pushing for growth on the price comparison side (as it is volatile, unpredictable, and we have little control over it) towards the fitness education side. The experiments I was doing in the gym over the years have actually uncovered new and improved ways for people to add muscle, recomposition, and get lean.
The focus now is to invest in scientific studies to demonstrate that these new bodybuilding ideas work, and to tell people about them on the channel. In turn, I expect during 2022 that the Fitness Savvy channel will experience significant growth and that income can shift towards selling workout plans, YouTube ad revenue, and sponsorships.
My innovative theories (which show great promise so far) are something that no one else has. With my competitive advantage in this area, I aim to capitalize and in turn grow Fitness Savvy into a world-leading fitness brand (think branded personal trainers, Fitness Savvy gyms, own-brand supplements, and fitness equipment products).
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Robin Young: When starting a business, even if you’re sure your idea is new, and innovative, you should assume that others have had a similar idea. While competition might not seem too much of an issue, it soon will be.
You must remember that most ideas can be replicated in some kind of way, and if your business idea is a good one, others will rise up with different ideas of how to deliver the product or service, and so you need to already plan for how to deal with this.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Robin Young: I assumed when starting a business that ranking in search engines would be easy. I simply believed that learning from others on the internet would suffice. So, my mistake was spending too much time and money on link building. In SEO it is a common misconception that link building is the most important thing to do. For the first 2 years, I developed the website, created content, and built links. Rankings did not improve. After a year or so I started looking into reasons for why the site was not ranking,
Finally, I realized the site had a “thin content” and “duplicate content” issue. This was because a lot of the product descriptions had been copied from other sites. I did not think this was an issue, as several of these websites had the same descriptions. However, they were not affiliated websites. As retailers, I guessed Google’s algorithm gave them the benefit of the doubt – and because they were physically selling the product, their websites still ranked.
Affiliate websites are treated differently, and after some digging, I realized this was the issue. I temporarily removed all the affected products from the site and started writing fresh new content and adding value. Within a few months, the website started to rank again.
This mistake cost me 2 years of time – time in which many of the products I had added to the site were now discontinued. Had I realized earlier on what the problem was, the business would have been in a far better position today.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Robin Young: Following on from the previous question, I would advise myself to concentrate on quality, not quantity. I kept getting thousands of products on the site for comparison where I should have had fewer products with more detailed info for customers.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Robin Young: The advice I got was from online resources – and that was that successful entrepreneurs work crazy hours – like 100 hour weeks. I felt that I was not working hard enough even when I was working 60 hours per week (while looking after 2 baby boys) which led to negative feelings and a negative image of myself.
Any of us could die tomorrow, and while building our business is important, we must remember that it shouldn’t come at any cost. Family should always come first, but this is a tricky dilemma because all of us are trying to make better futures for our families and children.
If you’re working 100 hours per week to grow an empire but spending no time with your children then you have priorities wrong. A better plan of priorities and the ability to bring in help should enable you to get the work done without sacrificing time with loved ones.
Don’t feel that you will fail if you’re putting in even 20 hours per week – as this is the amount of time some people can do due to working a full-time job. Just prioritize what needs to be done and even 20 hours per week will see great results over time.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Robin Young: Entrepreneurs should assume that the unexpected can strike at any moment. Although we’re all focused on the product or service and how it solves someone’s problem, we should always have a plan to pivot in case something puts a spanner in the works.
Some things haven’t changed – like the fact that new opportunities will always rise quickly and you must be ready to act. Companies made fortunes selling face masks, hand sanitizers, etc, so being on the ball and taking advantage of these rapid changes is important.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Robin Young: A common myth is that success is linked to hard work and a positive mindset. The more hours you put in, the more chance you have of turning your company into a multi-million dollar business empire; and that thinking about failure is planning for failure. Some have achieved big things with little work due to their pre-existing wealth and contacts. Others have worked themselves into an early grave and not achieved anything.
I would advise new entrepreneurs to be realistic and shrewd – while it is important to shoot for the stars and aim big, work smarter not harder, and always have a plan B and understand that no matter how good your business idea is or how hard you work, it might not work for one or more of a thousand possible reasons. Understanding and accepting this is not being pessimistic it’s being realistic.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Robin Young: Those who go into business with passion, determination, and a fighting attitude will do well. If you start a company based on a product or service you are not passionate about it can lead to problems. Naturally, many people run successful businesses selling things they are not passionate about, however, they must hold the other traits such as determining and fighting spirit to be successful.
You should assume that things will be hard and that problems will arise that you might think you have no answer to, but assume that it is possible to find an answer. Assuming your business will be successful no matter what is a bad place to start.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Robin Young: I think the best way of preparing yourself is to learn from others. Yes, books and websites are great, however, working with and learning from others will trump this – especially if the people you are learning from are in the same industry or hold values similar to yours and your business’s.
Follow news stories and look at the accounts of companies who are closely matched to yours – either in industry or ethos. Learn from what they do well and learn to spot when they are doing something different which might be a turning point for how things are done.
This is what I am looking to achieve with Fitness Savvy – at some stage, people will look at the new bodybuilding theories I am developing and the best fitness entrepreneurs will start sharing these ideas before anyone else – not because they read a book or went to a seminar, but because they were open-minded and followed others in the industry who appeared to be challenging the norm.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Robin Young: A rock star! I am an avid musician and this is my real passion, however, it is highly competitive and difficult to make a living – even if you’re really good!
I hope to make enough time to work more on my music and I do have a couple of songs shortlisted for use in a NetFlix movie for next year, which is awesome, but the music industry is something that actually scares me – I love making music, but the business side is not really for me.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Robin Young: I am from the UK so I don’t think I’m really qualified to answer this, so I am not going to embarrass myself by pretending to know enough about US history to make a valid contribution. But let’s just say John Lennon without much thought 😉
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Robin Young for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Robin Young or his company, you can do it through his – Facebook
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