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Thursday, Oct 15, 2020


Bary and Muhssin are co-founders of Send Me a Trainer, the first on-demand in-home personal training franchise.

Please click here for more information on Send Me A Trainer

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bary El-Yacoubi and Muhssin El-Yacoubi.

Bary and Muhssin are co-founders of Send Me a Trainer, the first on-demand in-home personal training franchise.

Bary has over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship and startups in the fitness and wellness industry with specializations in sales and marketing. Bary earned his Bachelor of Science in Sports Management and Exercise Science.

Bary holds many personal trainer certifications including the National Academy of Sports Medicine—Certified Personal Trainer certification, Performance Enhancement Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

Muhssin has over 15 years of experience in Entrepreneurship, Private Equity, and Investment Banking across multiple sectors and geographies including, the United States, Middle East, and India. Muhssin earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance & Accounting from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with a specialization in Finance and Entrepreneurship.

Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Muhssin: Ever since we were boys, Bary and I worked closely together, sharing chores on the family farm, and dividing the workload. When the opportunity to work together again came along, we were thrilled as our talents are so very complementary to each other’s.

Bary: For me, this part of my journey began when I was a personal trainer at one of those large “big box” gyms in the DC metro area. Within the first two months, I sold the most amount of personal training programs out of all of the company’s east coast locations. But oftentimes clients cancelled their personal training sessions at the last minute.

The reasons varied from “I was stuck at work” to “traffic was just too bad” and everything in between. I knew these were people serious about becoming healthy and losing weight, but getting to their appointments on a regular basis proved difficult with their busy schedules.

I offered to come to them and suddenly everything fell into place. The convenience of in-home personal training allowed them to be consistent and ultimately achieved their results sooner. The concept of an in-home trainer was suddenly so popular that one person couldn’t keep up with the demand. It was time to find additional trainers.

Muhssin: At about this time, I was completing my MBA at Northwestern with a specialization in entrepreneurship. Seeing the momentum that Bary was having with in-home training, we decided to work on a business plan as part of a class project and the first version of our business was born.

I continued to work part time with Bary while I pursued a career in Private Equity post MBA. After some time, as we received continued validation and built momentum, it was clear that the in-home personal training industry was a promising market that was very fragmented and we both knew that it was time to scale the business.

At that point, I shifted gears and joined Bary full time and we started the journey of transforming the business into a fitness technology company.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Bary: The basic model for a gym is that they are counting on their members not to show. If everyone who had a membership to a gym actually showed up, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business because of the inability to handle the capacity of its members all at once.

Around 85% of gym members don’t come to the gym. That’s 85%! These are people locked into a twelve-month contract who have lost focus while attempting to achieve their goals..

Now with Covid-19 and social distancing, that number is only going to get worse. People are beginning to doubt the wisdom of going out to exercise in an enclosed building with others while the pandemic is raging. Individuals are beginning to realize that it is unnecessary to be part of a gym membership to reach their fitness goals.

The gym market has been exposed for its unfavorable terms and the pandemic was the key to its disruption. In-home fitness is the new booming category.

Muhssin: But that isn’t the end of the story either. We’re also disrupting the franchising industry. We looked into this carefully and we found that the nature and types of “franchise” concepts were…not just outdated, but archaic. In the past we accepted brick-and-mortar concepts and manual operational processes as the norm.

The world has changed. Shopping is online, meetings are electronic. Technology has evolved and we have seen the growth in technology and technology-enabled businesses. However, when you look at the current offerings in the “franchise world”, to the modern entrepreneur who is looking to start a franchise, this technology component is not there.

Our company is a technology business that uses franchising as a distribution mechanism. The modern business owner can now own a technology enabled on-demand business as a franchise. It’s changing the entire concept of business ownership in the franchise world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Bary: One of my first times working with a client in his home was… anticlimactic. I thought I had plenty of time to get there, but then DC traffic happened, and I was late. All of four, maybe five minutes. Honestly, I thought nothing of it other than a minor inconvenience.

I am finally at the door, and it opens and the first thing the client says to me is “You’re late. If you’re late today, you’ll be late again in the future and I don’t have the flexibility in my schedule for that” and closed the door in my face. I was left standing there and had nothing to say.

He was right, not that I would have been late again, but that his time was that valuable to him. I was there to save him time, that was the value I was offering and then I took back some of that value by being late. That concept was eye-opening to me.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Bary: Well… as a teenager I spent my summers performing magic shows at an outdoor mall for entertainment. Some of my acts included slight-of-hand magic tricks to being an escape artist. I would have audience members put a straitjacket and chains around me while I maneuvered myself out of them. The whole thing became quite a performance that attracted a large crowd.

My mentors became the people around me. There were other street artists, musicians and performers that coached me and taught me to pay attention to the people I was entertaining. They showed me how to “read” an audience, how to judge their responses and how to create tension and laughter and applause.

In essence, they taught me a deep form of communication, and more importantly, they taught me how to listen to people. I have carried that skill with me ever since.

Muhssin: Have you ever had one of those moments when suddenly everything made sense? An “aha” moment? I had one of those at Silicon Valley Open Doors. It’s a conference about high-tech entrepreneurship. Part of this program included mentorship sessions at Google Launchpad.

It wasn’t a single person who changed my life, but an entire team. They really opened my eyes and helped us get clarity on the direction of our business model. It was a pivotal point where we had to make some key decisions on positioning ourselves and those sessions served to be extremely instrumental in allowing us to choose the right course of action.

It’s so important to stay connected and put yourself in these situations to get that mentorship. We are avid attendees of conferences such as TechCrunch, Collision, and many industry specific events where we continue to connect with great mentors.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Bary: A positive disruption is good when giving a large group of people an opportunity that they did not have before, such as supporting the gig economy. The introduction of the ride-sharing concept disrupted the taxi industry in order to give many individuals the opportunity to have an additional source of income. While the ride sharing apps increased in sales, it affected the local taxi companies from garnering business. However, even though taxi companies suffered negatively from the ride sharing phenomenon, the mass majority of individuals benefited from this venture.

Muhssin: In order to stay relevant, businesses have to be able to adapt to changing needs and audiences. Shopping malls were once the cornerstone of socialization, but even before Covid-19, they were losing business because consumer behavior changed. More and more people realized they could get their shopping done at home with the click of a button. When Covid-19 hit, the consumer continued to evolve more in that direction and are demanding more services that meet that convenience “at-home” model.

Bary: Disruption can be negative when it takes opportunities away from the mass populace. To use Muhssin’s example, shopping malls have traditionally been more than just retail outlets. They were, for many years a societal hot-spot, in particular with teen-agers. That was where people congregated, most often in a fairly safe situation, to meet each other and spend time together. With the decline of the mall, there is a decline in the ability to interact with others.

What stands the test of time, despite disruptions, is the need to seek each other out, to find friends and compansionship with others. Isolations and quarantines can’t hold us back. It’s that need is still what drives us to become more innovative. So while we might not have shopping malls in the way we used to, we’ve created Zoom Happy Hours and other ways to keep connecting, and to fulfill these basic desires.

We can simplify this whole concept very briefly consider this: People want to feel healthy and good about themselves. This has stood the test of time. But the world has been disruptive to the traditional gym model, preventing those desiring to be healthy from reaching those goals. By being disruptive in a positive way we’ve offered a solution which fulfills the original goal in the safer environment of your own home.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Bary: “Is it scalable?”

According to Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, most people that accumulate wealth are successful because they came up with a way to get other people to accumulate wealth. You can’t work in a vacuum, the days of building an empire for yourself are over, if they ever really existed. Giving people the tools and the guidance to build their successes is success.

Bary: “One Day Better”

My high school football coach had a phrase that he often mentioned: “One Day Better.” For him, every day was a new day with a new opportunity to get better. Every day was a chance to improve, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. As long as you improved something, no matter how much… it’s a good day. I never forgot that, and I have carried that sentiment with me for my entire life.

Muhssin: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” —Warren Buffet

It is so easy to be distracted, to find yourself off-course trying to do too many things at once. You need to stick to your goal and don’t let yourself get deviated from the end you want.

Bary: That’s part of trying to please everyone too. That’s a sure way to fail.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Bary: When I started out, I would go door-to-door in luxury apartments seeking potential clients. Often I would offer free sessions. I even held up a large sign on major intersections and flexed at passing cars to make the drivers smile.

It didn’t take long before I started to think outside the typical gym-membership trope and partnered with luxury apartments that had shared gyms. This changed everything.

Muhssin: In order to be scalable, though, we had to re-think even that. We went to Facebook ads, Google ads and concentrated on digital marketing. That was when things took off for us.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Bary: Honestly… we would like to continue to expand our international reach. We want to grow our market until we’re a household name in home fitness.

Most of us have an old piece of exercise equipment somewhere, something bought with a New Year’s resolution that’s collecting dust in a basement. But even if you don’t have the equipment you still have the tools. Frankly, what you need is someone to show you how to exercise for the most impact and hold you accountable.

Muhssin: That’s why this isn’t just a service. It’s a vision we really feel strongly about. This is something we’re doing because it makes a difference in people’s lives.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Good to Great—Jim Collins. The book discussed the differences between good and great companies. One main difference between good and great companies is that the great companies invested in technology to accelerate their business.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Bary: Again. “One Day Better”. It had a special meaning for me as a child, I had dyslexia and struggled in school with it. I held onto this Life Lesson through my school years and still do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Bary: I would love to work with kids who are dyslexic or have ADHD. These are bright, funny, and smart kids who often have hidden skills but struggle to see it within themselves. Teaching them how to identify these skills as children will make them better adults.

Muhssin: I would like to enable people to achieve their dreams. Owning their own businesses, becoming entrepreneurs, and realizing their potentials.