Good morning this is Peter from Fringe Sports and today I am happy to be speaking with Eamon Coyne and Tim Paulson, two partners who founded and run Crossfit Pallas in Ithaca, New York. Eamon, Tim, how are you guys doing this morning?
Eamon Coyne: Doing great, Peter, thanks for having us.
Tim Paulson: Yeah, happy to be here.
Love to have you guys on. So, Eamon, you and I had actually been talking last week and you had said some really interesting things about your relationship with Tim. That's what we will be getting into a little bit in terms of your partnership with running the gym and a few other things about that. But Eamon, why don't you start off and tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you come from and how did you get interested in Crossfit?
Eamon Coyne: Sure, Peter. So, I started Crossfit way back in 2004 when I was in the Navy. I started following crossfit.com when I was deployed and ever since then, everything's kind of blossomed out and expanded, you know, the big growth in 2010, or 2012 was obviously a part of that. I've been a life long hockey player, I've played hockey for 25 years at a number of different levels. I was looking for expanding that competitive feel after I finished my hockey career, after I was done with the Navy and I finished my career and everything like that. So, I got more into the competitive side of Crossfit and ended up opening Crossfit Pallas with Tim, and kind of building everything from there.
I love it. Tim, why don't you take us through you're journey?
Tim Paulson: Yeah, so, I met Eamon on the Ithaca College hockey team. I got back from a semester abroad and he introduced me to my first Crossfit workout, sometime early in the spring. It was 2012 I think it was. Basically, we just kind of used it as a fitness outlet, and then, like you said, we opened Crossfit Pallas, and we had a place to actually train, we both started taking up ... well I started taking it a lot more seriously, kind of started competing right around then. Basically running a Crossfit affiliate and coaching full time for the last four, four and a half, five years now, something like that.
Awesome. Thanks for sharing. So I did a little bit of research on you guys, and I believe you guys both have MBA degrees. Is that correct?
Eamon Coyne: Yes.
Tim Paulson: Yup. Correct.
So, out of all the things that you guys could theoretically do with your MBA or just in the world, why did you decide to open a Crossfit gym?
Eamon Coyne: This is always a very interesting question. I laugh because that's a particular question that people do ask. Tim and I are both highly educated, highly qualified people. We could work in commercial industry or work in the corporate industry and we both actually did have jobs lined up and ready to go as we were exiting our MBA program. Tim's was at KPMG as an accountant, and I had a job in system development at Boeing in Seattle. Our goal was to originally open this facility and kind of let it expand and turn it into a passive income thing, have other people run it for us. What we found as we were going through the process of growing and developing the business is that passion always trumps money. At least in my eyes it does. Money will come provided that you have passion and dedication and you have the means and the ability to continue to grow and adapt a business.
Tim and I are both very passionate. I can't even tell you how passionate we are about running the affiliates and making people's lives better. That was an easy choice for us, I believe. To forgo those corporate jobs and do something that we're passionate about.
I love it. I love hearing that. I also really like hearing that Tim's an accountant, or was at least working in accounting. I think that's always super helpful no matter what kind of business you're running. So tell us a little bit about Crossfit Pallas. You mentioned that it's in Ithaca, so tell us a little bit about Ithaca for the listeners that may not know a whole lot about it, and tell us a little bit about where the gym is. Are you guys in a closed space, are you stable? What's going on there?
Eamon Coyne: Yeah, so we opened up in a small two car garage just downtown in 2012. Basically was a small five hundred square foot space, and we grew over the course of just over two years to have about 125 members and we were basically bursting at the seams. We were running ten classes a day, eight to ten people and we were just out of space. We wanted to continue to build the gym, so we started looking around for a new home in town, and got lucky enough to get hooked up with some people who had some land and were willing to let us design the building and the construction of it if we were to sign a long term lease. Obviously we agreed and it sounded pretty awesome, so we moved into a corporate park back behind Wegmen's in downtown Ithaca. It was a brand new facility, just about two years ago. Built from the ground up to be a Crossfit gym. So we didn't have to go and try to mold an existing space. We could create literally a 7,000 square foot box and have a nice open area, designed and perfected to Crossfit.
Ithaca itself is located in central New York, it's the home of Cornell University and Ithaca college, so there's a really good student population, the population of the whole is obviously highly educated. It's a really diverse little town, so it's a really cool market to lift in.
Awesome. How do you think that you guys fit into the fitness landscape, or kind of the Crossfit affiliate landscape of Ithaca or of the area?
Tim Paulson: There's two major Crossfit gyms, our self included, in town. The other place opened up just about two years ago I think it was.
Eamon Coyne: In 14.
Tim Paulson: Yeah 14, so we've been around, we're the longest standing affiliate in Ithaca, so obviously that gave us a little bit of a first mover advantage, but it's a neutral relationship. It's good, it's friendly. Other than that, like I said, it's not a huge town, it's over 20,000 full time residents and then when students are around it's another 20,000 transitory people, so it's not really that big of a market compared to a lot of major cities. Which, is pretty much it's own challenges and things like that but ...
Eamon Coyne: Yeah, Tim and I actually just had a conversation about this at our meeting. We have a weekly meeting, we had a meeting right before this podcast and we were just talking about this. Ithaca does have a very tiny population as compared to some of the bigger markets. The Boston market, not the restaurant, but the actually Boston city area. California's market which is a totally different animal. Places like Chicago and even down in Dallas not too far from where you guys are. We have a limited population that we get to deal with. We only have anywhere between 40 and 60,000 people that live in the area, and that's only nine months out of the year when school's in session. School's out of session you cut that population in half.
As far as capturing a market share, I think, if we were anywhere else, our membership would be, if we're just extrapolating, our membership would probably be up around the 600 member mark. I think we've captured a pretty large portion of the market in Ithaca, as far as people who go to a Crossfit affiliate are concerned.
So can I dig in on one thing? And maybe this is the business school talking. When you say captured market share ... when I use words like that around Crossfit Affiliate owners, a lot of times I get kind of a weird vibe from them. How does it feel to you to be bringing that business mindset to running an affiliate?
Eamon Coyne: Tim and I also had this conversation. There's two ways that affiliates open up, at least from what I see. One is from the trainer side. Somebody goes through an education becomes... sports and exercise physiology or there's a lot of physical therapist that tends to open gyms and create a center of human movements, and then there's the business side. Somebody comes in with a business background, creates a business, opens a gym, and then basically hires the right people. I think, I'm not saying one model is better than the other, provided that they're distributing their skill sets equally. If somebody comes in with the sports and exercise physiology background, they're definitely or probably going to need to hire somebody that has familiarity in the business world, just to improve their position in a market. Where as Tim and I already have that, we just need to hire people who have that sports and exercise physiology background in order to have the best coaches, if that makes sense.
I feel that coming in with a business background, especially in Ithaca, allows us quite a bit of leeway in experience to build that and kind of forward look as we're continuing to grow.
Thank you for sharing that. I love it. So a few other things, and this is kind of based on a conversation that you and I had recently. I was really interested to hear about your partnership with Tim, and one of the things that was most interesting to me is that you're not physically located in Ithaca anymore. So, you moved away. Can you take us through how your partnership works and why it's been successful for you guys?
Eamon Coyne: Sure. Tim, if you want to jump in anywhere just let me know, as far as when I'm telling the story. So, I ended up moving to the Boston area about two years ago, about six hours from the gym. My wife is a exotic animal veterinarian, she got a clinical faculty position at Tuft's University Vet School, so we had to move to Boston. So that's what we did.
As soon as I moved, which was like I said about two years ago, there was a little bit of ... as for as growth and communication, there was a little bit of growing pains for Tim and I initially. We weren't communicating well. We didn't know how to work through that separation and we had a little bit of separation anxiety so to speak.
Long distance relationship are hard.
Eamon Coyne: Yeah. Long distance relationships are hard. Tim and I, we got comfortable in our roles in our small business. Mine being a little bit more client facing and dealing with the day to day operations and Tim doing a great job maintaining our software and our numbers and the finance side of things and making sure we had the appropriate finances for growth and future plans and things like that. Once I moved to Boston, that kind of changed. Tim became the primary face of the business and that was a little bit of a challenge for us. Tim is, correct me if I'm wrong Tim, Tim is naturally introverted. Tim would much rather spend time by himself, and I'm the exact opposite, which is great for us in the business side of things because it works well.
Tim has now been a little forced to be a little bit more extroverted, dealing with the day to day operations and client management and things like that. The way that we've made it work, at least what we've come around to to make it work ... like I had mentioned earlier, Tim and I have a meeting weekly where he and I basically look at where the business is from a membership standpoint, where the business is from a financial stand point, planning for the future ... this gives an opportunity to ... and you know, planning for what's going on right now. This gives us an opportunity to really dig in to the week to week operations of the business. It keeps me involved, and it allows Tim to bounce things off of me and me to bounce things off of Tim. We got a lot of exciting things that we have on the docket coming up for the Ithaca market as well as the Boston market. Once again, not the restaurant, but the actual area of Boston.
Tim and I, we work well together. It's taken four and a half years at times, but he and I, we've figured it out. We've figured out our relationship and how it works in our business relationship.
Tim Paulson: Yeah, and I think from the start, one of the reasons that we worked really well together was, Eamon being a little bit more operations, kind of marketing, and myself being a little bit more financial and on the conservative kind of things ... he was always kind of a dreamer and I was always the realist and having one of each of those people from the beginning... it worked out really well, especially from a business stand point, because Eamon's also very minded on growth and kind of expansion, new ideas, stuff like that, where as, again, I'm not a Debbie Downer, I don't think, but again, just a little bit more, I would say conservative of an approach to everything.
When you mold those two together, you end up with a vision moving forward that's expansive but realistic. It's not like you're trying to do too much at one point because we do use both sides of the coin. Again somebody pushing the envelope with ideas, and someone pulling it back and making sure that they're fully realistic, and that they're something that we can implement realistically in whatever time period we decide.
Awesome, thanks for sharing guys. I'd like to move onto our lightening round now. You guys cool with that or is there anything else you'd like to say.
Eamon Coyne: No, let's do it.
All right awesome. The lightening round. What is one amazing tactical business tip that's helped you in the last 30 days?
Eamon Coyne: Tim?
Tim Paulson: Oh, tactical question. My whole philosophy about staying present and just be sure that you realize what your focus should be on right now and directing yourself forward for that. For a Crossfit gym, going to the Crossfit open, we put a lot of long term plans ... not on hold necessarily, but we really spent the last five weeks focusing on getting our clients a really amazing experience during the open because it's something that we as a gym really embrace and pride ourselves on. So, every week it was about making sure that Friday Night Lights ran incredible. We weren't necessarily so focused on some of the more long term directives that we decided to push back towards ... you know it was kind of over pushing back later into the second quarter. So I guess, making sure that you focus on the short term when it's necessary and on the long term, the same way.
I love it. Eamon, best business book you've ever read?
Eamon Coyne: Best business book I've ever read. I'm a big fan of Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. I know a lot of people say that, having been from that background, having been in the Navy and serving over seas in combat zones, I think I have a, not a unique relationship with that book, but I think I have a unique insight with that book, more so than most people. I bought Tim a copy of it and I'm not sure if he's started reading it or not, but it's a ...
Tim Paulson: One chapter.
Eamon Coyne: One chapter at a time right? (laughter) It's a great read though. That and another book by Stanley Mcchrystal, called Team of Teams.
I haven't heard of Team of Teams. I have heard of Extreme Ownership.
Eamon Coyne: Team of Teams is actually a recommendation from Justin Bird who is actually director of the Crossfit games, saw him down at WODaplaooza and got to talking and somebody asked him what the three books he would recommend are and that was one of them.
I'll look into it. Sounds great. Let's do this one for each of you guys. Tim, what's your favorite piece of fitness gear? What's your number one?
Tim Paulson: Is all of my gear an answer? But, favorite piece of fitness gear ... I don't know. I love it all. Honestly, I think lately I've been on a really big d-ball kick. It's just such a versatile functional piece of equipment and like I said, I've been on a really big kick with it lately front rack holds, lunges with it, d-ball over the shoulder, it's been a kind of new favorite implement over the last few months.
I love it. Eamon, how about yourself?
Eamon Coyne: It's really funny, he said the exact same thing I was going to say. I'm on Crossfit gymnastics seminar staff, so I'd say probably one of my favorite pieces of equipment is the pull up bar. A lot you can do with that.
Simple and I love it. We'll stay with you Eamon, what's your favorite WOD?
So on crossfit.com today, they actually put Amanda out which is a 975 squat bench and ring muscles ups. I love that workout. Love that workout because it's short, it's intense, it's high skilled. It's a great workout.
Awesome. Tim, your favorite WOD?
Tim Paulson: Honestly anything I feel ... so like, handstand walks, triple unders, muscle ups ... I love heavy Olympic lifting. Anything like that where it's just something you really have to practice. You can't just be well conditioned and succeed at it. Mobility intensive, or like I said, really high skill I guess would be my favorite stuff.
That's funny. You guys are basically exactly opposite of me. I'm a grinder guy. Maybe because I don't have any skills. Cool, one last question on the lightening round. Who is one person, one box owner that you know that we should have on the show and what is one question that we should ask them? I'll defer this to either one of you guys. What's something you've always wanted to ask them or you'd love to have them answer?
Eamon Coyne: I know exactly who you should have on. He's actually not a box owner, but he's a really, I would say motivational owner. This guy, Chris Clyde, he's a personal trainer for Crossfit right now. He's got a really good coaching view on anything. If you were to ask him anything, oh man, that's great. I don't know. Have fun, make him sweat. You can think of something.
Tim Paulson: Yeah. Chris is a great dude. If I were to suggest somebody it would be Mat Frankel from Crossfit City Line. I would ask him about his games experience. He was on the Crossfit team and they won the games. Ask him the first thing he ate after he got done with the games when they won.
I'll make it happen. Don't spoil it for me. I love it. Cool. So if any of our listeners want to contact you guys, what's the best way to find you?
Tim Paulson: Best way to contact me, I'm a pretty big Instagram fan. My handle's t-rex like the animal and then my last name, Paulson - @trexpaulson.
I love it. Awesome. Well, this is my first dual interview, guys, and I really thank you for suffering through it with me, but I think we got a lot of great stuff here, and I've even been taking physical notes as we've been talking. I really appreciate you guys for making time with me, and have a wonderful day.
Tim Paulson: Thank you
Eamon Coyne: Thank you very much.