What is in this article?:
In an exclusive interview with Club Industry, former Precor President Paul Byrne discusses his accomplishments and failures at Precor, making the difficult decision to retire and the legacy he hopes to leave behind.
Successes and Failures
CI: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments?
PB: Well, the elliptical was personally satisfying because we knew the inventor, and he came to see the people who thought maybe it would be successful, but marginally so. We even showed it to some customers who said, "Meh, some people might like this." We felt it was going to be a big hit, and it was, so that felt good.
The others, that in a way were just as important, were getting into entertainment early. We acquired ClubCom's cardio theater [division in 2004], and this is a time when most of the entertainment was ambient TVs on walls. Nobody was really integrating entertainment units in a meaningful way. So when we bought cardio theater, that's the first thing we did. We went out and we integrated the 12-inch screen into the system so it would fit beautifully and be easy to navigate. It was the right height so that you could watch the television, and you could buy the product so that it had the TV or it didn't, and if you wanted it later you could. It was really thoughtfully done by our design team, and that was huge for us because sales really took off.
But that was really gratifying. That was significant growth, and it was broad-based, it wasn't just the elliptical. It was everything we sold. We acquired Icarian at that time and the strength sold well, so I think that was one of the more significant and successful moves.
CI: What do you consider to be your biggest failures?
PB: I like to quote Jackson Browne when it comes to that. I forget what song it is, but he has a line in one of his songs that says, "We forget about the losses, and we exaggerate the wins." And I kind of like that. My memory…I don't remember those failures that much, but they were there. The good news is there was never anything catastrophic. If I look back, I look at acquiring Icarian... I wouldn't call that failure at all, but I look back and think I should have invested more in. We bought it, but it required more resources. I should have hired more engineers sooner. We should have amped up the product development more quickly. So in a way, kind of a missed opportunity there. We've caught up, but that was definitely a lesson in if you're going to do something new, make sure you fully analyze the resource needs and allocate the resources to make sure you're successful.
Other failures have been just product things that didn't maybe work out as well as we thought. The stretch trainer, which is a great product, has been successful, but it hasn't been a home run. We've had a few home treadmills when we tried to do low-end that fell flat on their faces, but those things all happen. Luckily, the big bets have paid off.
I think it's really important to learn from [mistakes], but I'm not a big believer in rear-view mirrors. It's what's here and now and it's what's in the future that's all that really exists. You have to learn, but you can't dwell, and you can't get scared.
(Later in the interview, Byrne recalls what he considers to be his greatest failure.) I just remembered, it was buried so deep in my brain. When we did the StretchTrainer, I decided that it needed a lot of marketing. We actually tested an infomercial with the StretchTrainer, and that was very expensive. We had to shoot in Florida, we had talent, we used a famous physical therapist, and everything was great. The ad was great, the product was great, there was just one problem—it never sold. So that experiment was one that certainly taught me a lot about direct marketing. I know now that direct marketing is a big, big bet, number one. And number two, you better have the margins built into the product to pay for a huge, huge advertising cost. From a dollar point of view, that was probably my biggest screw-up.