Last week Xenios USA CEO was interviewed by MyCrossLife ‘s blogger Raffaele, here below all the questions:
The first question is straightforward: how did everything get started? We would like to know about the set-up of Xenios USA. What happened that day, nine years ago? Can you tell us more about this successful story?
“Xenios USA was born in November 2009 because me and the other founders were one of the first (and few) that believed in the potential of Crossfit® and in Functional Fitness overall, whose use of the common kind of training methods where strength and cardio machine were mainly involved took a backseat. We believed the new kind of workout could really have the chance to spread itself everywhere and towards every kind of user, so not just within the United States, where all was born, or simply for an small elite group of trainees. I personally fell in love with this new concept of training since the very first time I met it in the US in 2006/2007. At that time, I had already been working in the Fitness industry for ten years (yes, today I have been working for 22 years in this fantastic industry). I started to talk with a Fitness Equipment research group in the US and I used to work with them for several other projects and as a result of this prior relationship, we founded Xenios USA LLC in NY. We worked hard all along in 2010 in order to give light to the first core of the products, panel of makers and marketing strategy. Our goal was clear: within 5 years to build a high-end equipment brand that could really be a premium player in the Fitness market in Europe. We started this mission in the US, but our focus was Europe and it still is now. Even though a share of the company is American, we have always believed that Europe is “the” market: in 2009 the wave of the Functional Fitness was still tiny but it featured great power. We all agreed on a vision: there was a market with a growing demand, but lacking a range of sources. When we introduced the first catalogue of products, it featured several ranges of equipment. We launched a large catalogue and Xenios USA could count not just on specific Functional Training tools. We were ready to provide the right workout tool for every kind of workout where the machines were not ruling: functional fitness, freeweight, class workout. In 2009, Crossfit® was not that popular, at least in Europe. The first Boxes got started, but most of the potential users still looked at it as a “long-shot” kind of workout, compared to the one they were used to playing in the gyms. We have never stopped believing in Crossfit and that was also the reason that the Equipment for the Box Owner was already the majority of material in our catalogue. In two years, we now have confirmation! Nowadays, nobody can resist Crossfit® and Functional Fitness, not the members of the gym, nor the owners of a gym/box, and not even the big brands of the Fitness Industry, that are all giving more and more attention to these unconventional tools in their catalogues”.
There is a legend: the CEO of Xenios USA makes a difference. He likes to get his hands dirty, learn and be informed about everything. He likes to test the products, first, by himself. He continuously talks with the Fitness community and takes an active role in the development and production process. Are you the Steve Jobs of Functional Fitness?
“I am flattered by the comparison, but I don’t feel right accepting it as it is: let’s say it can work but the two subjects are like David and Goliath. Anyhow, in a certain way you are right. This year is my 22nd working year in the Fitness industry. I have passed through all of the Fitness eras: from the Body Building of Venice Beach to the aerobic classes and then to the landing of the Treadmills, the Bikes and the Strider Machines…up to the Crossfit revolution. All of this time in my career I have never left the battlefield! I have been always thinking that the narrow connection with the customer, the users, the athletes, the events, and, of course, the practice of Fitness, is the key to really be aware of the needs of the market. Even today, I am the CEO of Xenios USA but my first job in the Company is the research and development of the products, along with seeking factories and managing mass production. However, we can count on a really experienced team of Product managers, I do like to be involved and to play an active role in the development, prototyping, testing, and factories’ control. That is also one of the main reasons that I and you could have the chance to meet each other in one of the many “fully equipped by Xenios USA” events and I could be busy at the vendor booth, assembling a jump rope for a client…=) It doesn’t matter which industry you’re involved with, to be directly involved is the only way to succeed in business. I believe that managers who stay away from the core of the industry that their business is related to can’t really make decisions that really match users’ needs”.
Xenios USA. Almost 10 years on the market with dozens of equipped boxes and thousands of sold products. A growth that looks almost unstoppable. If you could describe using only a few words this endeavor, which ones would you use?
“A great effort, a great job, and great satisfaction! Since the first sale, we have equipped more than 700 boxes and Gyms based in more than 42 Countries: we have reached French Polynesia, Thailand, and last but not least, the private residence of the Dubai Hemir, who has set-up a private Box that could host 20 members classes. I am quite happy about the job we all did for sports and Fitness. I am quite happy to have built tools that help those who are looking for a better fitness workout and for those who work hard to compete. I am quite happy to have built something that will last: I am sure about it!”.
Can a smart idea be the winning one if not supported by a team of professionals who develop it, who shapes it, and who gives it a solid body? Strategically speaking, how much does the choice of the team affect reaching the goal? How do you give them your vision?
“I am quite sure that Companies and Brands can grow just because of the people that work in it. That means that the choice of the team and the training of the same really matter. Personally, I have always looked for people with a Crossfit background or, at least, with a passion for the sport. Sport teaches people resilience and perseverance, and both are mandatory to succeed in any challenge. The Xenios USA team makes me proud and I can count on 30 professionals that live daily the company and the spirit of the Xenios USA mission. I keep trying my best to have all of the team involved within the environment that Xenios USA lives in: all members of the team come to the contests that we equip. I believe it motivates them to see, in-action, the emotion created that is the result of their work. They can better understand the goal we fight for and they can understand how much the quality of their job matters. By the way, I also “push” all the guys here to attempt to try Crossfit classes….=)=)”.
To get into a Crossfit® box is like getting into a new school. Anyone who enters an affiliate Box for the first time can feel dizzy. Rigs, rings, a few pieces of equipment, and a lot of space. But, we know that the development of any single tool is not that easy: it needs hundreds of development hours and field tests. Can you explain to us in a short way, how the Xenios USA production process goes? How are your products born?
“It is a true manufacturing process. It goes through all of the necessary steps to give birth to a new product. Xenios USA owns the know-how of our products and that is also the power source of the brand. We start from thought, then we go on with the development of the idea, the drawings, the prototypes, the raw material selection, the best and most efficient production technologies, and the most suitable factory to get into the mass production. We are used to testing both the prototypes and pilot-run production. Tests are performed either in the workshop or on the field: we deliver the first-made pieces to our Box partners. We keep going back and forth within the first step of the road to the market until the product is as reliable and safe as it has to be. Once a product is ready to get into the mass production, we first ask third-party labs to test and certify its safety. For example, all our XRIG series is certified by the TUV according to the Fitness Products safety regulation EN-20957. When it’s time to launch the mass production, we don’t stop taking care of our “child”. We keep controlling every single batch in order to make sure it’s reached all of our quality standards. How does a product idea come to light? There are several “sources” of the ideas. We do believe that the best way to know if and when there is a new need, is to have a strict partnership with Athletes, Coaches, Box Owners and Contests. By the way, we are also concerned about the feedback of our customers. To have more than 700 Boxes and Gyms equipped by us is a really great engine of ideas! On another note, do you want to know what we really do not do? To purchase the products we have to sell from a supplier’s catalog. All products that feature the Xenios USA brand must be really made in Xenios USA. Moreover, we are aware that issuing a new product means taking responsibility for it, all along their life-cycle. Any workout tool, starting from the floor up to the roof of a Box must be developed with care. Maybe our policy about the products is one of the reason cause our products to cost a bit more than many competitors, but we do believe in that and we will never fight for the price: we like when we deal with customers that look for quality, first and then for price”.
Quality and sources of the raw materials. Let’s state that there are many companies all over the world that do a great job: which is your answer to those who go crazy with the origin of the goods, and/or with the shortage of R&D investments? How does Xenios USA face the challenges of a more and more price-ruled market?
“It is all easier than you may think. In a few words, it would be enough if the customers weren’t so distracted by the dozens of marketing ads that just push the “made in” feature. We are not working within the food market, where the origin of a product really makes a difference. As said within the previous answers, what really matters is the ownership of the know-how of a product. To own the knowledge means to exactly know how a product is made, wherever the production facility is located. At Xenios USA we invest 5% of our annual turnover into the R&D: who is used to reading balance sheets, and knows that such a percentage is quite important. Considering the width of a range of products like ours, considering the various raw materials and production processes involved with it, it is almost impossible to have all products house-made. That’s why I use to warn customers when they are fascinated by the ads where some of our competitors yell to the world the “made in”. “Made in” is great but it can’t really be feasible for all the products inside of a catalog of Fitness tools. Nowadays, the production processes and the production machines must be high-end ones, thus, only factories that can run huge mass productions are able to carry them out. What does a company like ours have to have? An internal R&D dept, a standard product development process, a team that can jump factory by factory in order to QC each single production batch, wherever the factories are. Having one’s own production facility often is not the ultimate solution! Sometimes it ends up being more of a handcrafting facility and it doesn’t fit the requirements of producing heavy-duty products like the ones we sell. Your question could be asked to CEOs of many other industries. You talk about a headache and you are right, but I would know why the same customers totally change their mind when they have, for example, to buy the latest model of the iPhone: they are ready to wait a day in line to be the first to have a product that was designed in the USA and then MADE IN CHINA!”.
The scenario of the European brands of workout equipment is more and more crowded. Any time a Box owner surfs the web a brand-new player can be found. So, why should a Box Owner go for Xenios USA?
“Competitors make the market alive! I am happy to learn that every month there is a new brand. It means the market we work for is running fast and the demand is getting higher and higher. What I am worried about is something different: when the supply is bigger than the demand, customers start to become crazy in order to choose. The ease with which one can get in touch with a Chinese trading company made the life of the new players easier and easier. The power of the social network makes the life of the marketing managers easier and easier and thus a brand can really go viral in a while, despite the quality of the product behind it. Unfortunately, there are no mandatory rules to be followed in order to make a Fitness product as long as there are no mandatory certifications that can save the customer from a wrong purchase. I wouldn’t answer your question by just listing the reasons why a customer should buy Xenios USA instead of the other brands. I would rather offer to the readers some tips to ask themselves if their choice is really the right one in order to invest their money. They could then go for another brand other than Xenios USA, but I do hope they will go for a brand and a product that could truly have their best interest at the heart of the sale. We do not work just with garage gyms owners. We mainly work with investors that want to set up a business and want to have reliable partners and suppliers.
A customer should ask themselves:
- Have I spoke to others who have also purchased from the same company? Have I spoken to those who have used this brand’s products for a long time if they’re satisfied?
- Have I asked the company to see the area/location of where I’m opening my Box? Did they offer advice? Did they design a project for me?
- Did I ask the company if I could visit them? If yes, did I visit? Did I check if they have enough human resources, knowledge, tools, and stock to fulfill all of the promises made?
- Have I ever trained in a box/Gym equipped with the tools I would like to buy? Did I decide to buy after seeing the products at an amazing show booth?
- Are the brands I’m choosing featuring any safety certifications for their products? Issued by known testing labs, such as the TUV?
- Did I check if the companies I am talking with are really capable of providing me, as a customer, an after-sales service?
- Which are the companies/brand that are working with athletes or equipping contests? Did I ask any info from endorsed athletes or equipped events?
I am sure the answers to the above questions will help any customer to choose better ! As you can read, I have not mentioned a price comparison topic…!
We deal with hundreds of leads that really do not know what’s behind a quotation, a brand, a website. Most of them make a decision just by mail/phone exchanging with the suppliers they decided to go for. What makes me really crazy is what happens when the same customers have to buy a brand new car: they are used to driving hundreds of kilometers dealer by the dealer in order to test the same car dozens of times and to ask lots of questions about the datasheet of the car to dozens of salesman! Don’t you think it is weird?
I believe the best choice is the one anyone can take by being aware of all details!”.